July 30, 2012 by ray_emily
“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.”
Joan Didion, Why I Write
I am teacher. More specifically, I am a middle school math teacher. I also sometimes teach teachers. I love the work that I do. (You may have suspected as much, given that I am voluntarily blogging about said work.) Before I did either of those things, however, I aspired to be a writer.
I love the writing process, and how it compels me to generate ideas. Furthermore, I love putting an idea on paper, letting it sit, contemplating it, returning to it, analyzing it, letting it grow, and finally, gently prodding it to its fully evolved state.
When I return to an idea that I have put into writing, I am always surprised and delighted at how my perception of the words on the page – and the thoughts in my head – have changed. Getting thoughts on paper (or into a word processor) helps me to understand the mess in my brain. In the words (again) of Joan Didion, it helps me to answer the question, “What is going on in these pictures in my mind?”
I have faithfully followed the blogs that other math teachers of the World Wide Web have lovingly created and shared. I have contemplated starting a blog for years, and have made every possible excuse to avoid doing it. (I’m inadequate. I’m irrelevant. I’ll be redundant. I’m scared. I don’t have time. Blah blah.) My most recent excuse – the one that stuck around long after I’d convinced myself that the others were silly – was that I couldn’t think of a blog title that I liked. Right now, however, at 3:00 am on a Sunday night, the title that you see on this page popped into my brain. This title is, amazingly, a title that inspires me – and that encapsulates what I hope this blog will exemplify. (Not going to lie: I may have jumped out of bed to go online and make sure no one else had thought of it, first.)
Some back story: When I was an undergraduate, I belonged to my university’s “Writing Fellows Program.” As a member of this program, I coached other students through the process of revising their writing in variety of disciplines. To prepare for this work, I was required to take a seminar on the fundamental theories of writing, as well as the tenets of “Writing Across the Curriculum” (WAC). I also studied this notion of “Writing to Learn,” and read many articles in which its benefits were extolled liberally. “Writing pushes students to think,” I read. “Writing is powerful.” And on, and on. I remember feeling skeptical, rolling my eyes with doubt.
Years later, however, the notion has stuck with me. This idea that writing is powerful resonates because it is real.
Heading into my sixth year teaching – and right here, right now, on this first ever blog post – I am making a commitment to writing to learn to teach. Not just for myself, but in this amazing public space, where so many others are also learning to teach, and learning to teach better, together. I want to use writing to reflect on what happens in the space of my classroom, and also in my brain, once I’ve left that space. Furthermore, I want to share that handful of things I’ve figured out for myself along the way. I want to be an active member of this community that has for years inspired me with its enthusiasm, wisdom, humor, and generosity. (Yes, I’ve been silently lurking for that long…)