How to Let Go of What Others Think

Throughout our lives, we are trained to care more about others than ourselves. Being selfless and compassionate becomes a marker of who we are. It is a beautiful thing; It is what life is all about.

The dilemma within this arrives when we put ourselves last and/or on the back burner altogether. We become so focused not only on others, but what they think and how they will perceive us. When this occurs, we can lose sight of our positive values, our good intentions, and who we are. These results can isolate us within our minds while disengaging us from making the impact we know we can make in our lives.

Therefore, this is not to say “stop caring about what others think,” because that is equally unhealthy as it is unproductive. What the bigger idea is to not let others change who you are as a person, deep within. We can and should grow as individuals, but we should definitely not lose sight from who we are.

In the social media age, this is increasingly more and more difficult for kids and adults to do. We all are constantly worrying about the number of likes we have on posts, who is commenting on what we post, what our influence is, and who likes the person we are.

The better question we should be asking ourselves is: Do I like who I am as a person? What do I like about myself? What positive attributes do I bring and share?

Building and improving upon our self-concept must be a priority we all gain and teach others in order thrive in and out of the digital world we live in.

Here are some ways to do this:

 

  • Accept who you are

What makes you, “you?” Embrace that and love yourself because of that. When you are having days of doubt, write self-affirmations down either on paper, on your phone, or on a dry erase/chalkboard hanging within your office or home. At my house, I write down self-affirmations on a dry erase board (almost) every day. At first it feels strange acknowledging the greatness you have, but over time you will see that what you write and say about yourself is what you will begin to believe.

Alex Elle, author of Words of a Wanderer, inspired me to begin this journey almost a year ago. She posts her daily affirmations on Twitter and Instagram, like the picture below where she says, “Today I affirm my worth is not contingent on how others choose to love me, but how I choose to love myself.”

Image Credit: @_alexelle on Twitter
  • Focus on your strengths and talents

What are talents that you have in life? We all have strengths and talents. Whether it is personal or professional talents, we each have areas in which we shine. Focus on those first, rather than your weaknesses. If we focus on our strengths, we will grow at much more rapid rates than diminishing our self-worth based on weaknesses.

  • Remain authentic

How often are you living your most authentic life? How much do you represent who you are as a person? 

The answer is, probably not enough. We all owe it to ourselves to step up our game and to show ourselves and the world what makes us “US” and what we have to offer. Grow to who you are, do not shrink into someone you are scared of becoming.

I love this quote that depicts this idea perfectly: “I’m not on this earth by chance. I am here for a purpose and that purpose is to grow a mountain, not to shrink to a grain of sand.” -O.M.

  • Set boundaries on what matters and what does not

This one is especially tough. We see a million things that need our love, care, and assistance, and can default to “GO” mode where we want to positively impact anything and everything. But, this is impossible. Instead, focus on what matters. Do not get bogged down or stressed with items that will not make an impact in 1 year, 5 years, or 10+ years. When every situation arises, ensure that you are setting boundaries to focus time in areas with the most significance and influence.

  • Worry about what YOU think, not others/Let the negativity GO

We spend hours and hours worrying about what others think, but how often do we think about what we are thinking? Be in tune with your thoughts, your opinions, and your dreams. Go after those, not what you think others want you do. Stay away from negativity within your mind at all costs; Negativity can be such a brain drain. As I mentioned in an earlier post, 10 Habits of Positive EducatorsBe a fountain, not a drain. Spread positivity, after all, it is FREE.

Takeaway: If we want to unleash talent in ourselves, we have to begin to accept and love who we are as individuals first. Do not focus on what others may think of you. Talent cannot thrive in environments filled of negativity and self-doubt. We all have something special that can make ourselves and the world better because of it. #UnleashTalent

My book, Unleash Talent, will be released in the Summer of 2018 by IMpress and DBC (Dave Burgess Publishing), Inc. Stay tuned to future blog posts here to get more sneak peeks of ideas within my book.
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Jump into the Unknown

In college, during our training and courses, many of us were programmed to be regimented to create our lesson plans, to book our calendars, and to fulfill what we have written down in that tiny lesson plan box, no matter what.

Today is different. Lesson plans are not just a box; they are life-sized. We aim to reach the whole child, not just the content. We see outside the curriculum and look into how we can help all students, all teachers, and all people.

Additionally, we continue to ask kids to be risk takers. Teachers across the nation are asking students “to be brave” and to “try new things” regularly, which is remarkable. But, I often wonder how often we trust ourselves as adults to adhere to the same advice?

As adults:

How often are we jumping into the unknown, by choice?

How are we sharing our experiences of risk-taking with students?

How regularly do we authentically model being brave with our students?

I ask those three questions above to myself on a very regular basis, especially during moments when I hesitate to take risks.

For our students to be willing to be brave, I think all of us, each of us, need to find those moments to live it as adults FIRST. We cannot have the cart before the horse.

Yet, if we were honest with ourselves, the thought of “jumping into the unknown” sometimes feels uncomfortable and unsettling to us. When we have these moments of discomfort, we have to remember that our students can feel the same exact way in similar circumstances.

The regimented part of us wants our day to fall into place as we see in our head. It gives us a sense of ownership, control, and success. But, if we always want to control the day, without embracing the unexpected, we will miss out on what life is all about.

The most rewarding outcomes will never meet us where we are if we do not set foot in the unexplored territories. As Steve Harvey eloquently says (when discussing success), “If you want to be successful, you have to jump, there is no way around it. When you jump, I can assure you that your parachute will not open right away. But, if you not jump, your parachute will never open. If you are safe, you will never soar.”

Truth: We may not always jump into the unknown; Sometimes, it may just be a slow step forward. Our direction is more important than pace and what is even more important than pace is patience. Whether we choose to walk, run, or jump into the unknown, we may not feel the most confident. But, if our hearts are centered in a good place, we can rest assured that our parachutes will soar.

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One Good Change Leads to Another

Image Credit: QuotesNew.com

Many of us share similar struggles, no matter what our path is, even if it is outside of education. We want to change EVERYTHING at once and can feel so small if the changes we wish to make are outside of our reach today.

In the world, we see people who desperately need our help… Hey, sometimes we are the people who need help from others! Having said that, it can sometimes feel insurmountable to give and be everything you need to be to everyone, all the time. We often think:

Where do we begin?

How do we help everyone who needs us? 

Instead of trying to change everything by yourself, all at once, first, focus on one person. Start by making a difference in one person’s life. Being there for one can have a positive domino effect on the lives of everyone that person interacts with. One change can lead to a multitude of changes; One person feeling loved can lead to that person spreading more love to others.

Ironically enough, by spreading love, you will also feel more loved, too.

By starting with one, you can gain the momentum you need to keep going. One good change leads to another, and another, and another; But, you have to start somewhere.

One good change leads to another, and another, and another; But, you have to start somewhere. Click To Tweet

To echo this, Jon Gordon recently quoted Andy Stanley in an Instagram post with these words, “Do for one which you wish could do for everyone.” 

I could not have said it better myself.

Try This: Take time each day to recenter your focus; Start your day off, by affirming that you will make a positive impact in the life of one person, one colleague, or one stranger. Say it out loud, believe it. Then, throughout your day, find opportunities to be that one person for someone else. After you find your one person, reflect on the positive interaction afterward.

But, tough days will happen. When you do have these tough days and wonder the breadth of the difference you are making- Find solace in yourself. Appreciate who you are, what you bring to the table, and reflect on those people and those moments in which you simply started by helping one person. Then, in fact, you will see the influence you are making.

Keep Spreading Hope-

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Book Announcement!!! #UnleashTalent

 

I am beyond ECSTATIC to announce the release of my forthcoming book, titled Unleash Talent, set to release in Summer 2018!

This week, I signed with IMpress Publishing; An incredible publishing company where I have honor to work beside George Couros and Paige Couros of IMPress and Dave Burgess and Shelley Burgess of DBC, Inc.

Being an author has always been one of my lifelong dreams and it is absolutely surreal to see it coming to fruition.

#UnleashTalent is my vision for education and my passion project all wrapped into one. Within every page is a message that I believe this world needs… I cannot wait to share more with you soon!

Before the book release, I aim to create more blog posts centered around this idea of #UnleashTalent. So, I would LOVE for you to stay tuned for more blog posts here at karaknollmeyer.com and to join the conversation on Twitter at #UnleashTalent.

 

Thank You

Thank you to my phenomenal publishing team: George and Paige. Thank you for believing in my work and pushing me to write this book; I look up to you and feel sincerely blessed to be apart of the team.

I want to close this post by expressing my gratitude to all of the readers of this blog- Whether you have been reading my blog from the beginning, or you are a new reader to this blog, I love and appreciate you more than I can ever express. My readers are my inspiration and without you, I would be lost. Your support and feedback have brought me life, encouragement, and wisdom.

Here is to unleashing talent within, saying YES to dreams, and being all you can be-

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Begin the School Year with a Fresh Slate Mindset

Each school year seems to go faster than the year before. Over the summer, our brains tend to race as we ponder about the, “I wish I would haves” from the year before.

Maybe you are thinking to yourself:

  • I wish I would have tried ____________ (add in the curriculum idea here).
  • I wish I would have been a better ______________ (add in job title here).
  • I wish I would have taken more risks in the classroom for my students.
  • I wish I would have built more positive relationships with my colleagues.
  • I wish I would have been more generous with my love and time to others.

Soon after, we start to dream big with the marvelous, grandiose, and detailed plans of everything we aspire to do for this upcoming school year. We commit ourselves to it all and believe that this time, nothing will stand in our way to reach our plans.

It can be a vicious cycle of dreams, hope, then guilt if we feel that we fall short at the end of the year.

But, I believe that over the summer during our brainstorming sessions, we can get so blinded with everything we want to do that what we all often miss are discussions of starting the year with a “Fresh Slate” Mindset.

As educators, we have a unique opportunity to start each year with a fresh slate. In most other professions, people do not have this chance. We can and should take our failures and missteps from the year before and turn them into learning opportunities for the future; Rather than dwelling on the past, we have a responsibility each school year to make it better than the year before.

So, as you approach this upcoming year, I challenge you to embody a “Fresh Slate” Mindset, for yourself, students and your colleagues. What I mean by this is for you to give yourself grace for failures made, and most of all give that same grace to others, too.

Remember this: We can be whoever we want to be today. Who we were yesterday does not have to dictate who we will be today or tomorrow.

We are all human, we have all made mistakes, and every person in this world could all use a little more love and acceptance. After all, we are all learning and figuring life out as we go, right?

In the excitement of the new school year and ideas, do not forget to take the time to press the restart button for yourself and others. Start small and always start with love.

We often practice this with students, but forget to apply it to ourselves and other adults.

Sometimes, what we ALL need the most, even more than new programs and innovations, is a chance to start over and do better than what we have ever done before.

Here is to making this school year the best yet,

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The Heart of School Culture

Book: How to Create a Culture of Achievement in Your School by Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey
Image Credit: ASCD

“Create your school culture” is common advice that administrators receive on social media, in blog posts, in academic journals and beyond.

But, the quandary with the phrase, “create your school culture” is that it creates assumptions. Assumptions, like:

  1. A school culture does not exist until you say it does.
  2. You can create school culture yourself.
  3. The end result is a finished product.

The fact is that none of the assumptions above will bring sustainability or excellence to an organization’s culture.

Instead…

We have to shift our thinking to understand:

  1. A school’s culture is always existent. But, that does not necessarily mean that the culture is positive or in sync.
  2. It takes the efforts of every single person in the school to build a school culture that prospers.
  3. School culture is not an end result, it is something we have to work at every second of every day

School culture is the daily interactionsseen or unseen, the values among peopleshared or unshared, and patterns of behavior. Moreover, the school culture is its people.

As leaders and educators, we each have to take personal accountability for the energy we bring to the spaces we occupy: Hallways, classrooms, and every inch of our building. Our values and actions have to match up in order for our culture to flourish. Whether we realize it or not, we each are currently setting either a positive or negative tone in our building- And our people are taking notice. 

In the book, “How to Create a Culture of Achievement in Your School and Classroom” by Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and Ian Pumpian ask this question:

“Can our school be so welcoming, so inviting, and so comfortable that every person who walks through our doors believe that they are about to have an amazing experience?”

What if we all asked this question constantly? 

What if we all LIVED by this question?

In order to build a welcoming space, it will begin with each of us having conversations with one another to change the paradigm behind the language and meaning of school culture: How do we view it? What does it mean to us? How do we value it? What do we do about it?

Shaping a positive school culture takes time, consistency, and unity. At the heart of any positive culture is a desire to move collectively towards the future and giving one another grace for mistakes made.

In closing, as Henry Ford says, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” 

Image Credit: Slo Dive

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Be the Man in the Arena

 

Image Credit- Kara Knollmeyer
Previously published post- 2016

On April 23, 1910, Theodore Roosevelt delivered the “Citizenship In A Republic” speech in Paris, France. The small excerpt from his 35-page speech, which you see above, is widely known as the Man in the Arena. This notable passage was most arguably the finest speech of Roosevelt’s entire Presidency.

It is remarkable that a message stated over 100 years ago can be just as powerful, magical, and moving; When a message can touch generations, there must be a common thread that people can relate to time and time again.

After much introspection, here are my six takeaways from the Man in the Arena:

1. Feel your fears

In many cases, the critic is someone who is just fearful as the man in the arena; Fearful of their inadequacies, fearful that they could be more successful than measure, and fearful that others may know more and be more than them. Feel your fears. OWN your fears. Do not let your fears embody a critic mindset that flattens the spirit and gusto from those around you. Feel your fears and deal with your own insecurities first and foremost.

2. Be Brave

Everyone feels inadequate at some point in time. It takes pure guts and bravery to overcome inadequacy and trying times. We are each capable of becoming the metaphorical “Man in the Arena.” Moreover, any critic can turn into a champion if they have the steady heart to persevere.

3. Discomfort Equals Growth

Putting yourself out there is not easy, and no one said it was. Furthermore, I do not think it is supposed to be easy; It is supposed to be meaningful. Times of discomfort prove that you are growing and learning. Accept it and appreciate the uncomfortable process.

4. Focus on the Man in the Arena

It is not about the critic. the naysayers are usually not the individuals evoking change…The man in the arena is.

Sometimes it can appear that critics are as prevalent as your need to blink. When you are the “Man in the Arena,” you may feel like a spectacle under the watch of analysis. Stay steadfast with your doggedness and zeal. In time, you will see the successes of your efforts.

5. Do Not Judge

If you see an individual struggling- that is not their story. If you see a highly successful person- that is not their only story. Perception is not reality. The beauty of life is that each individual is a unique collection of stories; One snapshot of someone’s life does not tell all. Do not judge a person for their highs or their lows in life, because there is always more unseen and left to understand.

6. Be an Advocate

Nothing is done well without passion. Find something worth fighting for and go after it. By doing so, your zest for life will rise exponentially. When you love what you are doing, you start giving less emphasis to the critics; The doers are too busy to be worried about the critics anyhow. Focus more on the vision, more on the future product, and refrain from sweating the small stuff.

Remember:

If you do not advocate for what you want or what you believe in, people assume and interpret that it is not of value.

Here’s to all the men and women in the arena…

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Engaging vs. Empowering Students

Inspiration

If you have read “The Innovator’s Mindset,” you will remember George’s idea on the difference between “engaging” students and “empowering” students. Through the differentiation that George made between the two concepts, I started reflecting on intangible and tangible results that I have experienced as an educator in the classroom which inspired me to create the infographic above.

Student-Led Learning

As an educator, I’ve always been intrigued on teaching students through student-led learning. “Student-led” or “student-centered” learning can take on different meanings depending on the circumstance or the interpreter. I knew that I wanted to empower my students through this process. I did not want to be THE keeper of the knowledge, instead, I wanted to be the caretaker of student talent.

Needless to say, it can be overwhelming to begin such a mindset shift. “Big ideas” are wonderful, but to be implemented properly, it is beneficial to think of your “big idea” in mini-steps, while reflecting and changing footing as you go.

Therefore, to start my student-led process, I first started by recruiting my students and gaining their help. Together, we took student goals and learning standards and reworded them to student-friendly language. In time, students then started leading small reading goal setting groups and conferring groups.

Learning Curve

I must say that success in these groups did not happen overnight. There was a HUGE learning curve, for myself and for students, but that is okay. My students were not used to leading and being “in charge” and I was not used to it either; These symptoms were a direct side effect of inexperience. But, instead of chalking up the attempts as failures, I started asking my students what they felt they needed to successfully lead groups and to work as a team.

Fact: If you ask 6th graders for “honest feedback” you will get just that. They usually do not hold back; Which is terrifying and humbling all at the same time. Nonetheless, their answers surprised me: They said they needed to learn “how to work together” and how to “help other kids to talk when they wouldn’t say anything.”

I pride myself in using collaborative skills and cooperating learning strategies, so their honest feedback was an eye-opener for me. However, I took a step back and realized that in my cooperative learning techniques, I was showing them how to be collaborative in well-structured settings where I was overseeing every interaction. As a result, when the tables turned and students led the groups, they were not able to apply these collaborative skills to new settings that were completely unfamiliar.

In other words, “I,” the teacher, was leading the movement and swooping in as needed rather than allowing them to learn organically. In my infographic above, I give general statements that fit under “engagement” and “empowerment,” although many could fit in both columns. Likewise, this does not mean that student engagement does not matter. It does matter. But, if we think of how we learn as adults, most of us would rather be in the driver seat to a certain degree, rather than sitting in passenger seats waiting for delivered information at a uniform pace. It is a balance. I wish I could create a formula of instruction that works in all cases, but I cannot. As we all know, it depends on the individual learner and what that learner needs at any given moment.

As George Couros says, “Should we be a sage on the stage, the guide on the side, or the architect of learning? – The answer is that teacher should be all of those. The art of teaching is figuring out when you should be which one.”

“We’re All in This Together”

Consequently, through listening to straightforward feedback from my students, I was able to help model interactions that were more conversational based from student-to-student. I quickly saw students taking their own spin on how they spoke and interacted with others. Looking back, I believe that with time and practice, students became more comfortable with more freedom and lack of limits.

But, when I say” lack of limits,” it is important to note that I am not implying that high standards and expectations were not set. Alternatively, through consistent student input, I did not need to constantly iterate MY expectations and mine alone. Instead, the process was natural; It allowed for all of us to come together to build reasonable expectations as a team. The instruction moved from teacher-led to student-led, to “we are all in this together.”

Through watching my students excel through the steep learning curve, I learned how to reangle my approach. It was never about students leading in the first place, it was about students needing to feel heard and valued. Once individuals feel that their opinions evoke real change, leadership and empowerment naturally happen.

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The Fear of Not Being Enough

Usually, on blogs or social media, we tend to display the highlights of our lives. The best of the best.

And what are we too afraid to put online? Our inadequacies.

Why?

If we write someone on paper, we can toss it in the can and forget its existence. When we write online, it is imprinted forever.

But, in this post, I want to be vulnerable. My hopes are that through this post, I can help others feel that they are not alone.


To give you a little backstory, within the past couple of weeks, I have moved, gotten married, and will be starting a new leadership position.

A lot of change; Good change, exciting change, but still change nonetheless.

Throughout these recent and pivotal changes of my life, where I see all I have ever wanted before me, one question keeps hitting me harder than the rest:


Am I going to be enough? 

  • Will I be a good enough wife?
  • Will I make my husband happy?
  • Will I be able to make the positive impact I dream to make in my new leadership position?
  • Will I be able to give students and staff everything they deserve?

Although my husband and I have dated for years previously to our marriage and in my career I have had a myriad of educational leadership experiences, I cannot help but feel the feelings and ask myself these questions.

Change in all areas in life is incredible. But, it still looks like and feels like vulnerability.

But, I am learning that a part of being human means we have to start allowing ourselves to feel the feelings that come along with it. To be honest, to be raw, to be authentic.

We were born to be imperfect; To have polarizing emotions. Some days I feel confident, other days I do not. No one may ever know or be able to tell if I confident or not, but it still does not mask my inner feelings.

This is a message for you (and me):

Asking yourself,  “Am I good enough?” does not make you any less of a person or educator. It does not mean you cannot handle challenges. You absolutely can.

Being brave enough to ask that question means that you care deeply; You love people and want to help more than you can even describe.

I can feel, even as I write this, that opening myself up to unknown and embracing it, rather than feeling inadequate because of it, is the best thing I could do, not the worst.

Remember: You are enough.

You will continue to make a difference because you are the difference. Click To Tweet

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6 Ways To Build a Love for Writing in your Classroom

Writing. This one word can evoke extreme emotions among students and adults. People, unfortunately, can sometimes see writing as they do math; They think they are either a natural or they are not.

As a child, we gain these insights based on our experiences. Some believe they do not have anything that they view as important enough to share, some have not found their voice yet, some are nervous to share their thoughts, while some only associate writing with academics. As children grow older, some will still see themselves as “non-writers,” even into adulthood.

I think writing is more than putting a pencil to paper or typing words on a screen. Writing is one of the most solid approaches to practice and fully engage in critical thinking. As you write, you are constantly trying to find the best words, anecdotes, and analogies to bring your thoughts to life in the way you see them in your brain. For example, on one blog post, I may spend several hours at night creating a graphic, organizing my thoughts, revising, deleting, and re-reading; While on other occasions, I have words that ignite my brain like a spark and I am unstoppable for 30 minutes.

Moreover, by sharing my work with others, I can get feedback to see what resonated with people, who relates to my ideas, or who sees things differently and why. All of these facets of the writing process helps myself and other writers out there become better at their practice while becoming all-around better thinkers.

Through my own process, I have developed a passion for helping students see writing differently, too. Here are some tips I have used in the classroom that have worked well with students from elementary, middle school, and beyond: 

1. Be a writing role model: Write on a blog, website, or another forum

“The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.” – Gustave Flaubert

In my opinion, this is non-negotiable. In my experience, this has also been one of the most influential factors in building writing credibility and importance in my classroom.

When we think about reading teachers, for example, many rightfully assume that reading teachers love reading, read for fun, and are knowledgeable readers. But, when we think of writing teachers, often the focus is, “Can the teacher teach writing well?” I believe that in order to coach other writers, you must be a writer yourself. This does not mean you need to be a published author or to have written a book. However, I do encourage teachers to begin writing on a blog, website, or another forum. Once you start writing regularly yourself, you will understand how difficult and scary the process can be at first. We expect kids to be able to write without fear, yet we forget how deeply personal and frightening it can be. Through this experience, your newfound awareness will help you relate to your students.

Additionally, I loved sharing my website with my students and the growth I made as a writer. I shared with them true stories about my writing life. Here are some of the stories I share:

  • I always loved to write as a kid in my journal, but I was terrified to share my thoughts with anyone, yet alone the world
  • I thought to be a true writer, you had to be an author of a book
  • I created my first Xanga blog in 5th grade, but I never shared my name because I was scared people would not like what I had to say
  • I met my first published author in college; She was the first person I shared a personal piece of writing with and was the person who, without knowing, gave me the inspiration to write publicly
  • It was not until I was a teacher that I discovered my niche; I would write a blog for other educators and share my journey.
  • I constantly evolve and change as a writer. My voice as a writer has changed even in the last two years. With each blog post, I gain more comfort and confidence

2. Have thoughtful conversations about writing to break down barriers and inspire

 “The desire to write grows through writing.” – Desiderius Erasmus

Through opening myself and my writing to my students, I then see my students do the same for me. Due to this, I cannot tell you how many personal writing pieces students have sent me. Students will send me digital copies of their work with comments such as, “Ms. Welty, will you look at my piece and give me some suggestions?” 

Relationships with students have grown stronger and writing becomes more than just an assigned task – It is simply what we do!

Over time, you will see that students will be more real with you with their writing. This allows you to break down barriers on writing, their potential fears, and to give you a chance to inspire. You will find that while trying to inspire them, that their writing and authenticity will inspire you even more.

Tip: My middle school students and I would write quotes on the board each day to frame our thoughts and we would talk about them. Here are some quotes I love:


“But when people say, did you always want to be a writer? I have to say no, I was always a writer.” – Ursula Le Guin

“You may not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” – Jodi Picoult

“Writing to me is simply thinking through my fingers.” – Isaac Asimov

“Write hard and clear about what hurts.” – Ernest Hemingway

“You can make anything by writing.” – C.S. Lewis

“Writing was not a childhood dream of mine. I do not recall longing to write as a student. I wasn’t sure how to start.” – John Grisham


3. Give writing opportunities outside of academics

A couple of years back, I specifically remember discussing the power of passion writing projects and writing for fun with my students. After class, a few of my students walked up to me and shared that they were already doing this. One student shared that she wrote fiction regularly on an anonymous blog forum (she had thousands of readers, by the way), while another student shared with me that she carried around a writing journal with her everywhere to log ideas, inspirations, and sketches.

I realized in that moment that we often lecture kids about how important these matters are but somehow manage to forget to ask if some are already jumping into it.

Soon after, I asked these students if they could become our writing leaders and coaches for the class. They were delighted to accept. Not only did I learn a significant lesson from them, but through this connection, we were able to gain ideas of how to embed these non-academic writing opportunities into the classroom as well.

4. Ask students what books, blogs, YouTube channels or websites that matter to them

“Prompts require kids to write. Ideas inspire them to write.” – John Spencer

I regularly ask students what they are reading and watching on various platforms to give me an idea of what they are interested in and what excites them. I am always so intrigued to hear what they say. Writing and media formats have changed drastically over the last ten years and they will continue to develop with each passing year. No matter how young or old we are as an educator, we have to remember that our students are growing up in a different world than we did.

This is not a bad thing. We just have to be aware that as relevant and “hip” as we try to be as adults, we can never fully relate to what it is like to be a student today. But, that will not stop us from trying. So, ASK students what matters to them and who influences them. Whether it is a book they love, or who they are following on Instagram, Snapchat, or YouTube- These things matter. If we can better understand the voices that matter to students, we can help students share their voice, too.

5. Find ways to differentiate writing

In the last couple of years alone we have seen huge innovations to technology and assistive technology that can make a huge impact for your students. Google Docs has embedded text-to-speech features that allow you to talk into your device while you see the words appear. Some of my students who had difficulties with fine motor skills, or found it tricky to process their thoughts while thinking about what to type, LOVED this text-to-speech feature. Although the technology still has room for advancement and speech variations can make it harder for accuracy, it is still astounding.

To use the feature, go to docs.google.com, and then click the menu option Tools (at the top) and then scroll a little down and click on Voice Typing. 

Also, check out this article on other assistive technology ideas by Reading Rockets to give you, even more, ideas you can embed in your classroom.

Important note: Meeting with students about their writing, whether it is individually or in small groups, is a beneficial way to connect with your students and to give them a chance to talk out their work with you. There are many great ways to type comments and give feedback digitally as well, but never lose sight of the power of dialogue in person. In the digital age we live in, make a conscious effort to create personal connections with your students as much as possible.

6. Give students opportunities to share their work with an audience of their choice

With Google Apps for Education, KidBlog.org, and various other digital blogging platforms, children have more opportunities than EVER to share their writing by sharing with classmates, students across the world, families, and educators.  I advise you to research and find out which platform would be best for your students. Hashtags like #GAFE and #KidBlog on Twitter are great starting points.

Further, ask your students who they want to share their writing with- We often forget this piece and do not give students a choice. Not all writing pieces need to be shared and some students may not want to post personal pieces. On the other hand, some students can get creative and will want to share their work in varying ways that you did not even think of. Listen to your students.

With all of this considered, when students have an audience, their love for writing grows, along with the meaning behind it. The power of clicking the publish and send buttons are transformational. As soon as they click publish, they begin to see that they do have a voice. Through this, students gain ownership and what they do begins to matter.

Soon after that, students can be a part of the thought provoking conversations and ideas that emerge through sharing with an audience…and that is where the real magic happens.

 

How do you build a love for writing in your classroom?  I would love to hear your thoughts.

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