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Common Core Tip 42—Why I’ve Always Loved Being a Teacher

I hope you will all forgive me for a bit of shameless self-promotion. I had an experience this week that reminded me why I’ve always loved being a teacher.

My youngest daughter’s sweet mother-in-law (also a teacher) shared the following invitations (Orlando, Pensacola, and Deerfield Beach) to three upcoming DSC writing workshops with her colleagues. She forwarded me the following response to her email.

Holy Moly! I had no idea that your daughter-in-law is Sue Wilder’s daughter. (Was her daughter the one you introduced me to in the hall a few weeks ago with your adorable grandchild?) That was my favorite part of the email.

Sue Wilder was the reading coach at my kids’ elementary school. She’s the reason my intelligent-but-quirky daughter, Leigh, finally learned to read, and hasn’t put down a book since. Being a parent-volunteer in one of Sue Wilder’s programs is one of the experiences that made me decide to go to grad school and become a teacher.

This workshop sounds intriguing, BUT…

…this year we’re still locked into the madness of having our fourth-grade students take the state writing test. The following thoughts are my own, but I’m guessing that my team might agree.

As a team, we’ve become pretty adept at teaching students to be successful on the writing test. And I’m afraid that’s where our focus—and probably the focus of most teachers in the -assessed writing grades will remain this year.

HOWEVER, if I taught another grade, I’d be very interested in getting a jump on Common Core writing expectations. They are VERY different from our state writing expectations. And that’s a good thing.

Thanks for thinking of us.

As I read this email, I couldn’t help but be filled with nostalgia for this family. I met them more than fifteen years ago when their child was in one of my intervention groups. After all this time I can see their faces as if it was yesterday. The “intelligent-but-quirky daughter” was one of my favorites. I knew she was gifted regardless of her “so called” reading level. She got every joke, even my lame ones. She understood nuances of language and ideas. She communicated as much with her facial expressions as she did with her quite extensive vocabulary. And, she was an amazing writer. Her writing was honest and creative and her voice rang true throughout. She was an atrocious speller but who cares? She was only seven. I LOVED TEACHING THAT KID and she and I stayed connected throughout her elementary years!

Her mom was the volunteer every teacher dreams of. We had a lot of fabulous parents but I put her at the top of the list. She’s thoughtful and reflective and intuitive. I celebrated when she decided to become a teacher. She and I had several long conversations during the time she was making that decision. I have no doubt that she is a positive force at her school.

Her response to the writing event broke my heart a little bit but I get it. She and her colleagues are doing the best they can for their students in our test crazy culture. Helping students do well on the state assessment is important, we even wrote a test prep genre unit to help but teaching students to be strong writers is even more important. The rest will take care of itself.

And so, I wrote this response.

First of all thanks for helping us get the word out about the upcoming writing institutes. It’s going to be a fantastic day and really is a great opportunity for teachers who are working to deepen their own knowledge and need resources to support students in becoming strong writers.

Say hello for me to my old friend and share with your colleagues that the workshop is designed to help all of us become better writing teachers. Strengthening writing instruction is critical regardless of whether we are preparing our students for the state test or for any other type of writing they will need to do in the future. Writing for the state test is one form of writing and the CCSS expects that students will learn to write well in all forms.

I hope to see you and some of your colleagues at the workshop.

For all of you who are feeling the pressures of state writing tests, remember that we are teaching the writer, not the writing. Our writers need to learn to write for all kinds of audiences, not just test scorers. This will be just as important to remember when we start assessing the CCSS.

Prior to being a regional director at Center for the Collaborative Classroom, Sue Wilder was the reading coach in an urban school in Orange County, Florida. She spent more than 30 years in Florida’s public schools as a classroom teacher, Exceptional Education teacher, intervention specialist, and professional developer. Sue has done post-graduate coursework at the University of Florida and holds an MEd in Exceptional Education from the University of Central Florida and a BS in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from the University of West Alabama. Sue is a regular presenter at state and national conferences and has authored articles and chapters for a variety of publications.

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Comments (2)

Sue, Reading this brought

Sue, Reading this brought back so many memories of the years I was so blessed to work along side of you. Each year I grew more and more, which led me to pursue my teaching career. Then I was fortunate enough to have you as one of my professors! How blessed I was! I miss you, and just want to thank you for teaching, and guiding me in so many ways! You are truly an inspiration to so many! Oh yea, did I mention that Seanah started college and is pursuing a career in teaching? Thank you for these wonderful posts!!! Rhonda

Sue, Thanks for the wonderful

Sue, Thanks for the wonderful reminder that we are teaching the writer and not the writing. I wish the entire country understood this. Kathy KD