A Writer Teaching Writing
About 12 years ago, I began visiting schools so I could meet the children who read my books, talk with them, and learn what they were interested in. I enjoyed it so much I looked for teaching jobs in the schools too. As a result, for the last 10 years I’ve taught writing to Kindergarten through eighth grade and now work with mostly third and fourth grades in several NJ schools as an artist in residence, which means I see the same children each week for the entire school year. I also make short visits and have been to more than 100 schools in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and my home state of Indiana.
When I began teaching I was surprised to realize how much I knew about the writing process. I was also surprised to see how eager children were to write with me. Writing is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done so I try to share ways I have learned to make it easier with children. There are no formulas for writing, only structures and some rules, so I teach them that they have to make choices when they write, and think through a story or essay before they put pen to paper. In my classes there are no bad ideas, only ones that work better than others, which I believe is an important critical thinking skill to get across and an excellent way to build a child’s confidence.
I teach children writing from a writer’s point of view, which is different from a teacher’s. I use my own books to demonstrate lessons and always make my workshops interactive. Interaction means I always learn something from the children, too. I am always fascinated by the way they express their unique ideas, feelings, and observations, and I find them a constant source of inspiration for my own material.