I Don’t Feel Inspired – Admitting the Truth to Students

I am in the middle of a writing unit asking my students to be inspired   Yup, just like that.  Unfortunately it seems that most of the kids left their “I am inspired right in this moment” juice at home and I am struggling to get them to “live like writers” like Lucy is telling them to do.  Oh Lucy Calkins, I love your ideas but sometimes you are just a little bit crazy.

So I take a deep breath and pull back a little.  I tell them sometimes I get inspired when I am driving or falling asleep.  Sometimes I get inspired walking down the hallway or gently rocking a child.  Sometimes inspiration hits me and I don’t even realize it until a blogpost  has written itself.  But if I tell myself I have to blog and be inspired at that very moment I can almost guarantee it is not going to happen.  Stunned silence and 20 pairs of eyes looking at me.  A kid nervously blurts out, “You mean, you don’t just write when you have to?”  I am at cross road; do I pretend I do or do I admit the truth?

I clear my throat…”Umm, no I don’t.  In fact, sometimes writing is very hard for me too.”  Two kids start to whisper and the silence pervades the room.  “But that doesn’t mean I don’t try…”

So I tell the kids to take a deep breath and allow their thoughts to wander.  They can write down whatever pops into their heads.  They can go off on a tangent or just write statements.  They can sit there and just think.  They can wait for inspiration to strike but just promise me to notice when it does and capture those ideas.  They can write naturally for once.

I don’t know if they will remember me admitting that I can’t always write but that isn’t the important part.  The important part is me telling them that it is ok to think before they write.  That I get it.  That inspiration is not just something turned on even though we wish it were.  It’s not so much that I hope THEY remember as that I remember.  I have to remember what it feels like for my students.  I have to remember that as much as I want them to be producers and super students, they are indeed humans with inspiration that strike sand inspiration that fades, and that is not a bad thing.

image from icanread

3 thoughts on “I Don’t Feel Inspired – Admitting the Truth to Students

  1. as always, you are both courageous and smart. i also love the writers workshop model, but sometimes find Lucy's approach not quite matching up with the kids sitting in front of me. This year, our district bought a new writing program from Schoolwide which was created by a Teacher's College disciple. Its writers workshop for those who have never done writers workshop. The units are well done and both teacher and student friendly. I'm liking it quite alot and am currently teaching a unit that uses Cynthia Rylant as a mentor author. I mention all this because we have spent the past week (5 lessons), generating ideas a la Rylant and today's lesson was precisely about the need to sometimes just relax, daydream and listen to whatever pops into your head. We read several quotes from Rylant to that effect about how she approaches her own writing and her own admission that it's not always easy for her (although some stories do seem to write themselves). Then we took some time to think, dream and free write. My only rule was that it had to be quiet so we could really listen to what was going on in our heads. So you're in good company. I'm going to share your past with my class tomorrow as an affirmation of what they have been experiencing and doing.

  2. "Oh Lucy Calkins, I love your ideas but sometimes you are just a little bit crazy."I'm so glad I'm not the only one who feels this way! I've had similar thoughts trying to teach some of those units. Asking someone to live a "writer's life" when that may not necessarily be who they are is a challenging task, even to adults! I can think of hundreds of times I've just sat at my computer waiting for the right words to pour out. Having those honest conversations with our kids about what we do when we're stuck is what helps them (and us) be better. A few weeks ago my students (2/3rd) and I were in the middle of a geometry lesson and we got a great a idea for a punchline to a story. Everyone had ideas as to how this story could start, so we stopped the lesson and took 10 min. to pre-write. Inspiration can strike when you least expect it, and it's important to know what to do with it! Thank you, Pernille, for your blog. I've been a lurker for a while, but I enjoy every post you write.

  3. Mrs. Ripp,I am a student at the University of South Alabama, and I'm majoring in secondary ed and English. This is excellent. As a current student and future teacher, I love that you can admit this. It actually inspired me greatly. There are many times when i just can't find my, "Muse", and i get stumped. When I was in high school, my AP English teacher had us do, "Stream of Conscious", writing before every essay. And it still helps me find my focus today. Thanks for sharing this post!-Heather Perrinperrinheatheredm310.blogspot.com

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