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Trouble!

This is officially my first blog post.

I always swore I would not blog because it would take too much of my writing time. But, swears are meant to be broken. And, since I'm on a writing deadline, it stands to reason that now would be the perfect time to start blogging, since procrastination is at the heart of many a writing process. And this is in part, I'm sure, because writing can get tedious and hard.

Even back when I was in college, every once in awhile in my fiction writing class, things would get dull and just a little –blech. It was at those points when our professor, Perry Glasser, would ask us to do a sort of writing cheer.

“What do we want?” Perry would demand.
“Trouble!” the class would yell.
“When do we want it?” he’d ask.
“Now!”
“Don’t you forget it,” he’d say.

He taught us that stories, all good stories, need to have trouble. And writers who plan to be good writers need to embrace difficulties. “Too often amateur writers run from trouble. They don’t want anything to go wrong in their stories because they love their characters so much. But trouble is what makes a story tick.”

I still agree whole-heartedly with that advice for fiction writing. And in my current job of working regularly with students and adults on their writing, more often than not I find myself coaxing writers into embracing trouble. Looking for where it hides and then pulling it into the light.

But, I also want to add another place that trouble should be welcomed: the classroom.

I know, that sounds counter-intuitive. And, as a conflict-averse person, I couldn’t wish more that it wasn’t true. Yet, going into my 19th year in education, I’ve learned a few things about classrooms that seem to hold true, one of those is this: that a trouble-free classroom means something’s not right. Not only because, like fiction writing, trouble makes a more interesting story. But also, because it’s in the troubles and the overcoming of them that we become stronger. As the adage goes, ‘what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger’.

Over my years of studying and embracing troubles in teaching, I’ve come to three conclusions (so far):

1. Trouble happens all the time.
2. If we expect it, we can make the most of it.
3. Some of our best teaching discoveries come from trouble.

I tend to believe that no one really wants trouble. But, if we can’t stop it from coming into our lives, it stands to reason, at least to my pragmatic mind, that we might as well roll out the red carpet, name it for what it is, and do our best to make our practice and our students’ writing stronger for it. Across the country and the world I have had the opportunity time and again to be awed by teachers who don’t let trouble in writing workshop stop them. Rather, they run toward trouble with open arms. They bring it into the light. They study it. The discuss it.

Which brings me to you. As some of you know, I am in the close-to-done phase of my newest book for Heinemann, current working title, named after you and all the other fierce, trouble-facing educators out there: The Unstoppable Writing Teacher. In it I discuss forthrightly many of the most common troubles educators encounter in the teaching of writing, and some of the ways educators have found to overcome them. I think I have most of the big topics covered. But I would also like to hear from you.

Are there any issues, troubles or concerns you have or have had in your classroom that have gotten in the way of teaching writing in the way you would most like to? Are there problems that maybe you haven’t experienced firsthand, but you hear talked about around the teachers’ lounge? If so, could you write to me about them? I will respond to each one personally. And, with your permission, I’ll share them here to open them up to a wider discussion. If it makes sense to do so, and with your permission, I might also include a few of the more universal or intriguing troubles in the new book.

So, if you’re interested in broadening the conversation about struggles in the writing workshop in this way, here’s a few options:

• Tweet the issue. My Twitter handle is @colleen_cruz. Use #unstoppableteacher somewhere in the body of your Tweet.
o Example: Principal doesn’t believe in writing workshop. I am passionate about it. #unstoppableteacher

OR

• E-mail me. There’s a contact link on the top of the site or you can just write to colleen@colleencruz.com
o Example: Dear Colleen, I discovered writing workshop a few years ago. Since then, I have done a lot of professional development on my own. However, my current principal doesn’t think writing workshop really works. It’s starting to become a problem because I don’t want to have a pedagogical conflict with my administrator. From: Brooklyn Teacher

OR

• Leave your troubles in the comment sections below. You can do this using your name or anonymously.

I hope I get to hear from many of you over the next several days and weeks!

And this officially concludes my first blogpost. I don't think it counts as procrastination if it's book related, do you?
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