When I was my students’ age (think 9th grade), I was terrified of sharing any of my writing. I was the quiet one in class who just sat back and let others participate. Though I liked to read, I didn’t want to read in front of my classmates. Though I liked to write, I didn’t feel comfortable sharing anything I wrote. Why? I didn’t know how good my writing was. At that point, I had received some decent grades on my writing assignments, but no grade that told me “I’m a great writer.” I was under the impression that one had to be a great writer to share his/her work, and I didn’t think my writing qualified. I didn’t know then that there are millions of great writers out there with millions of different styles. No one ever told me that anyone could be a great writer. I thought people were born writers. I was wrong.
Even today, I still don’t always have much confidence in my own writing, but I am working on changing that (hence this blog). I have written articles for the New York State English Council, and I have also written posts for the Nerdy Book Club, with the most recent one being posted yesterday (view here). Even with that post I was nervous. I read my review of James Dashner’s The Maze Runner numerous times before submitting it, and had my husband read it over too. I asked him if it made sense, if he liked it, and if he thought other teachers and readers would like it. How would he know? In the back of my mind, I knew it made sense, but I was still scared. Fear is a quality all writers have at some point, and it might never go away completely. That day, I decided to face my fear and send my post in. Yesterday when it was posted, I received a few comments from others stating they liked my review, but the most memorable comment I received was from James Dashner himself:
I was floored. Ever? I was hoping for him to “favorite” my review, but “best review ever”? I felt so honored that the author of The Maze Runner was saying this, for he probably read hundreds of reviews about his famous book. But even more than honored, I felt embarrassed. I was embarrassed that I doubted myself. I don’t think I am the best writer, for every writer can improve his/her skills, but I know I can write a great piece when I try. Dashner’s comment reminded me of that.
These feelings I have need to be shared with my students. They need to know that feelings of nervousness and embarrassment are normal. They also need to know that they all can be great writers. So many students think that they have to write perfectly every time they write because, “My English teacher will be reading it!” Here is a secret that all teachers, including myself, need to share with their students from Day One: English teachers aren’t perfect writers! We make mistakes too. That may be shocking to a student, but they need to hear this. By showing students our writing mistakes, drafts, and revisions, we teachers can ease the nervousness and embarrassment feelings, and insert comfort in their place. When students are more comfortable, they will be more willing to try and take risks with their writing. By doing that, they will learn that they can all be great writers.