This blog has stretched me. I’ve had to learn to write. I’ve had to find my voice. It turns out that research and anecdotes both support the notion that before we can become writers we must find our own voice. What do I mean by that? Well, voice is an author’s unique style and way of saying things. You should be able to recognize an author’s written voice the way you recognize a person’s spoken voice.
Just as I do, each student has a unique voice. I have to wonder if we are equitable in our instruction when we elicit student voice. Do we encourage our students to share their uniqueness and individual cultural experiences? Do our students feel safe in sharing their stories in our classrooms?
Lothar Konietzko, in a paper published in Education Week, suggests that creating guidelines with our students for sharing in class builds that safety net and helps to encourage positive relationships for students and teachers. In his classrooms, students are asked: “to listen, participate respectfully, and refrain from disrupting others.” Additionally, he “assures students their stories will never be shared without their permission” and individual students will never be identified. And most importantly, Mr. Konietzko never requires students to share. Students thereby can write from their experiences and share their thinking, knowing it’s safe to do so.
Many of our schools in the NWESD region have considerable “cultural capital.” Diversity comes into our classrooms on a daily basis and the use of writing to build understanding and acceptance among students cannot be overemphasized. “Writing is not a solitary act,” says Yekaterina McKenney in an Educational Leadership article from April 2018. “Writers need readers and long for a validation of their thinking.” Asking students to write from their understanding of their own culture gives entire classrooms the opportunity to learn about the differences and similarities we all bring to the table.
All students can write! I believe in the power of story to connect us and help us understand our complex world. Encouraging our students to share their stories will go a long way toward building comradery, collegiality, and acceptance in our classrooms.
For more information about the NWESD student writing program visit, Young Authors Conference 2019
For more information and the references sighted in this blog visit: