(This is Part 2 of Lessons Learned from the Slice of Life Challenge. I posted Part 1 yesterday. This challenge has been a powerfully profound writing experience for me. Thank you to the incredibly innovative teachers who envisioned this project and had the persistence to continue making it a reality year-after-year.)
Lesson 6: Writing is Art
Too often we think of writing as a science,
Sentences constructed with subjects and predicates.
Capitals at the beginning, punctuation at the end.
A collection of nouns and verbs and adjectives and adverbs,
Combined to fit in perfect, neat packages.
Well, to hell with that!
Writing is an art,
Art that is beautifully subjective.
And the best artists break the “rules.”
I want to read art that is:
Show me a teacher who values those qualities in writing,
And I’ll see a classroom of students writing like warriors.
Lesson 7: Choice is a Fundamental Principle of Writing
In this challenge, every day was a new possibility.
No one told me to write--
About this topic,
In this genre,
For this audience,
For this purpose.
I was the decision-maker.
Some days I relished in endless possibilities.
Other days I just wanted someone to tell me what to write.
But I know—choice is my job as a writer.
And that doesn’t mean choice is the easy way out.
Abundant choices provided some of my biggest challenges.
Lesson 8: I Didn’t Need a Rubric to Assess my Writing
I would have felt constrained if:
There was a narrow rubric hovering over my posts,
There were components I had to include in each piece,
I had to tell my story “across multiple pages,”
Points were taken off for not including “linking words”.
In an effort to raise the standards of child writing,
In what ways do the standards restrict child voices?
If standards were applied to my posts,
So many posts would have been silenced.
And, I would have never made it 31 days,
If each piece was judged by an outside, sterile, objective rubric.
I think it’s time for us to rethink our practice of using rubrics
To respond to student writing.
Rubrics don’t measure anything worth measuring.
Lesson 9: Writers Need Communities
What a gift it was to have the warm embrace of a writing community,
To have fellow writers offer encouragement,
To have fellow writers nudge me forward,
To have fellow writers excited about a published post.
To have a fellow writer say, “I see you.”
Writing is lonely.
For hours it’s the writer, the screen, and a collection of jumbled thoughts.
So, when those thoughts coalesced,
It’s was a gift to have the community respond.
Lesson 10: When We Write Meaningfully, Our Lives Bleed onto the Page
Ernest Hemingway said, “There’s nothing to writing.
All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
This month I saw blood across many blogs:
Husbands who passed away too soon,
Children growing up too fast,
Retirements soon approaching,
Worries about losing identity,
Fears about a country many no longer recognize,
Joys about joyfully exhausting work,
Hope about what tomorrow brings,
Happiness in a life well-lived.
We write because we have something to say.
And in a world where many feel like their voices are tempered,
This slice of life challenge let’s writers roar.
3/31/2017 04:08:30 pm
Congrats on completing the SOL challenge. The ten lessons you learned are ones that we've all found to be true. Hope to read more of your slices on Tuesdays.
Wow! I will have to go back to your post yesterday and find out what you wrote about your lessons 1-5. Beautifully written, I love what you have learned. I especially like #'s 6,7, and 8. Still having son's in HS, I would like to see some changes in how we assess writing. It would be well worth it to not "limit" their voice. Thanks. I hope to read more of your posts.
3/31/2017 04:40:06 pm
All so true! Choice is very important and I learned that with my student, too! Also, love how you described writing as art.
3/31/2017 04:56:27 pm
Lesson 8 is powerful. Although I used some of the strategies I teach my students, I did things I tell them not to do and even broke some rules.
3/31/2017 07:03:32 pm
I love the insights you gather here. I think they are meaningful well beyond this month of slicers. They seem to me to be rather important tenets about teaching and the kinds of classrooms young people most need.
3/31/2017 08:11:38 pm
Love Lesson #10 as I found this to be so true for me and my month of writing, too
3/31/2017 08:56:18 pm
I love this reflection! I'll need to go back to read #1-5 =) I feel like each of these are spot on, but #8 struck me as I was just thinking about it this morning...do we create writers by scoring their writing?! I feel like that's what we do too often in schools. We want students to write more/improve their writing- let's create a rubric, require a writing assessment, score writing prompts. I wish instead we could let them experience a challenge like this!
3/31/2017 09:07:08 pm
Loved all of your ten lessons. It would be fun to debate rubrics and their value or maybe their diminishing returns. We do need audience and choice and reactions and canvases to explore the craft and the art. Thank you for participating. I really enjoyed your reflections, as well as your video. Please keep slicing on Tuesdays.
4/1/2017 05:58:15 am
I agree with each of these lessons learned! These words struck me, "We write because we have something to say.
4/1/2017 11:29:50 am
YES!!! all the YES to all of these!
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About the Author
Brian Kissel is an Associate Professor of education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. His focus is writing instruction. He lives in North Carolina with his wife, Hattie and three kiddos: Charlie, Ben, and Harriet.