How do you write about a topic that you are not really an expert on? Do you even have “the right” to write about something you’re not an expert on? These questions have been preventing me all weekend from writing about a topic I want to write about, Morphological Awareness. The more I read about this, the more I realize that this is very important for me to fully understand. According to my students’ Words Their Way assessment results, this is the area many fall into for their instructional needs. But I admit it, I’m still a bit fuzzy here. Sure it’s what we focus on in our daily instruction but I’m still trying to wrap my head around exactly what it means and its significance to my students’ reading success.
Several times I sat down to write a blog post about it, then stopped and researched a little, started to write again, then stopped and researched a little more, and then I finally gave up and closed the laptop. It’s going to take a while to understand this and how to use it to move my little readers forward. So while I’m not ready to share deep understanding, yet, I do believe that understanding is in the air.
On Friday I went to the Maine Science Teachers’ Association annual conference. It’s been years since I’ve gone and it was nice to be in the realm of science again. It was really nice actually. Nice to see folks I haven’t seen in years, nice to hear science jargon rolling easily off the lips of all who were there. Gee I miss that. Now it’s the jargon of literacy I’m trying to feel confident with so that it too rolls off my tongue easily. But it wasn’t the science folks and the science talk that made the biggest impression on me. It was one little line that the keynote speaker said. He, a nationally recognized scientist, a geologist I believe, who at the end of his 45 minute presentation directed us, a roomful of science educators, to sit for one minute in silence, to gather our thoughts and questions before he opened the floor to questions. “Wow, did he really just guide a roomful of people through a minute of mindfulness!?” Well yes I do believe he did!
That brings me to the musings I find myself thinking about this beautiful fall weekend. In our classrooms we usually lead kids through writing, demanding they work on our timeline. Yet, here I am, struggling to write. Able to write only after several attempts and some rewarding physical labor outside in my garden followed by a lovely hike on this perfect fall day. As I moved pumpkins, pulled tomatoes and sunflowers, and dug sweet potatoes it began to come to me how I wanted this blog post to go. But it wasn’t until I hiked that I realized that this writing had to focus on my struggles as I tried to write about something I didn’t fully understand. The goal couldn’t be about communicating deep knowledge. This post had to be about how we can use writing as a tool to deepen our understanding of a topic we may be struggling with. It also had to be about the realization that this enlightenment only came after I gave myself permission to stop, take care of myself, muse a little, and come back when I was ready and confident.
Did it work? Yes and no. Yes, that I am now writing and enjoying the writing as well as thinking about a topic that means a lot to me. And no, as I need much more reading and research to do. But as I reflect on writing about something I don’t fully understand I think about the teacher action research I am preparing for my presentation this Saturday in my writing class. It focuses on the effects mindfulness may have on writing anxiety. Of course I sit here wondering about the role that mindfulness is playing on my writing now. The more I tried to write the more tense I got. It wasn’t until I stopped, did something outside, gave myself the time and space I needed to mull over my ideas that I was able to free that writer’s flow we all crave. So I must acknowledge that it was the gift of time and mindfulness I experienced as I used my body while outside in fresh air that finally let my writing voice open up. May I, may we, allow our kids such gifts when they hit their writer’s block.