Sunday, November 17, 2013

Caroline Hackmeyer

This has been a busy year for me: undertaking National Board certification, chairing my department, teaching a couple of new-to-me courses.  It may be my seventh year of teaching, but—as always—I feel a little bit like a rookie trying to figure things out.  My family and friends outside the profession say I’m a perfectionist, but I see myself as always being in the midst of the very messy process of revision.

I’m always trying to get better:

·        How can I get my kids past the raw comprehension of Othello and into the 
         study of Shakespeare’s language choices?

·        How can I move students from making inferences as they read to recognizing 
         patterns throughout the entire text?

·        How can I create student independence in the thinking and writing process?

·        Etc. Etc. Etc.    

Now, as I embark on my newest endeavor, leading the GWP’s study group on Writing Craft, I find myself asking more and more questions:

·        What books should we study?

·        With the push towards argument and informational writing, where does 
          narrative writing fit in?

·        How can we make room in our classrooms for narrative writing despite our 
         other time constraints?

Narrative writing is something that English teachers have always excelled in, but we need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Over the past few months, I’ve begun to realize that my baby might be long gone.  The thing is, the rest of the community and our administration haven’t even realized my baby is missing yet.  I’m being contacted left and right about this writing contest and that guest-poet, told second-hand of my administration’s full commitment to our students taking advantage of these opportunities, and left wondering how I am supposed to do it all.

As teachers, we deal in the currency of time.  A mandatory assembly here and test-prep lesson there are time spent that can never be recovered.  Yes, perhaps it is an investment, but will we ever see the return?  And what about the bills we have yet to pay: critical reading and analysis, argument writing, informational writing, performance tasks?  Is there any time left to budget towards narrative writing?

Tough questions.  I think the answer is that we have to make time for narrative writing.  So, how do we do this?  And how do we convince the rest of the world that class time working on narrative writing is time well spent?  I hope these are questions our Writing Craft Study Group will be able to answer.