While reading In the Middle I found myself inspired at times feeling that I had found the solution to all of my students’ writing needs, and I became flat out frustrated at other times wishing that I fully believed my own students could grow leaps and bounds via participation in a Writer’s Workshop. I very much feel like there are cliffs all around me with no concrete answers to be found. On the one hand, I learned that students are able to discover and demonstrate vast amounts of knowledge and understanding through the implementation of a Writer’s Workshop. On the other hand, when students are years behind in their writing skills is it fair to them to demand competent writing without their understanding of basic writing skills that must be understood at even the most vague level in order to create logical, coherent sentences?
I have no solid answer despite the praise and reviews of Atwell’s techniques or after reading them firsthand. I understand the power of one on one instruction that a Writer’s Workshop would provide my own students, and, I guess, therein lies the problem. There are so many intensive, tier 3 students that I wonder how I can possibly hope to meet standards, or make significant gains towards catching up to those standards.
I suppose it all boils down to my own abilities to manage various levels of ability simultaneously and my ability to connect with my students. I feel that doing whole class instruction will likely hinder the growth and development of my tier one and two students, therefore, I see tremendous value of the Writer’s Workshop approach, yet I worry tremendously about the amount of time it will take one on one to help my less successful students develop.
Am I whining? Perhaps, but I genuinely feel perplexed. Perhaps I should take a step back and run full speed jumping off of the cliff into the abyss. Courage is, after all, a prerequisite of teaching.
Bottom line: There are far too many benefits not to try and incorporate a Writer’s Workshop into teaching writing. I value my students and feel that the best way to help many of them is to engage them on a one on one basis and encourage them to set goals, produce writing, and place value in their own writing.
Over the next several months, I will be doing my best to transform my class into a Writer’s Workshop. Presently, I’m not sure what you would call my classroom. At times I feel like I’ve done great things for my students, and others I feel that I have done nothing but run around like a chicken with my head cut off, and that is terrifying to me. I will use lessons developed by Atwell in In the Middle, make up others, and borrow even more from other places until I find a mixture of units, lessons, and minilessons that help all of my students achieve my main goal for them: to become better writers and more critical thinkers for having taken my class. It is time to stop writing and to start B.A.S.E jumping.