Currently a department co-chair and co-director with the Pennsylvania Writing & Literature Project, Brian Kelley has taught 6th, 7th, and 8th grade for over twenty years.

[Podcast] A Writing Sanctuary

[Podcast] A Writing Sanctuary

The early months of a school year excite me because my students surprise me. Their insights are fresh and pure. Their life experiences with reading and writing come out with sincerity. Most are not used to being asked about their reading and writing lives (outside of correction and errors). And they don't know just how similar their lives are...and how connected their experiences are to decades of research.

In this episode of The Classroom, when Grace spoke with me I was moved in the moment by how often she used certain words:

  • I used to

  • we liked

  • I loved

  • we loved

Grace, like so many kids who speak with me, used to read and write on her own. In our podcast, Grace describes sitting under chairs and desks in her elementary school classrooms. In these cozy sanctuaries, Grace passed notebooks of original stories to friends. Friends wrote feedback. Friends spoke feedback. And children were living a writing workshop without grades or standards.

And Grace reminds us that she loved it.

Under Grace's desk, there were no rules, no corrections, no harsh judgements, no neurotic focus on what was wrong. And this matters. I think about this a lot because kids tell me over and over when they are given the opportunity to speak about what works for them during the process of composing.

Grace reminds us "when [students] have such rigid guidelines [students] get so nervous about [their] writing."

Grace is wise and honest and sincere. Her words match the research of Janet Emig, Mina Shaughnessy, Don Graves, James Britton, et al. When I hear her say, "I loved it. I loved it so much" I hear it as a bittersweet moment for all of us in education because so many of us love our profession. We work hard to do right by our kids. But our classrooms mortgage love and joy in the name of teaching how to take a test and "they will need this in college."

I get it. We have standards. We have goals. We owe adolescents the best possible shot at an education that will take them as far as they want to go--but at the expense of happiness? At the expense of loving something so deeply that you want it to be a part of your life forever?

We are their models. And what we value (through action), they learn to value too. And in the same way that adolescents lose their love for reading and writing in the first place (through the interference of the decisions of adults), we have to be the models and mentors in their lives to help them find that love and joy again--because the research shows the odds are stacked against them recapture that love and joy alone.



[Podcast] Detachment and Attachment

[Podcast] Detachment and Attachment

[Podcast] Comfortable with Each Other

[Podcast] Comfortable with Each Other