What Teach for America can teach writersPosted: January 24, 2010
Following my usual Sunday ritual, I spent a couple hours this morning curled up in my favorite reading chair devouring french press coffee and the Sunday paper. I always find something that makes me think. Really think. The stimulus today was an article titled “What makes a great teacher” in the St Pete Times.
I felt drawn to read it for several reasons.
A. I was a teacher. Maybe not always a great one, but I did strive to make a difference. The year my profoundly gifted and profoundly deaf 9 year olds tested out reading at the high school level…,well, that was a proud moment indeed.
B. I’ve been frustrated to the n’th degree by the range of quality of teaching my son experienced in his education from pre-school to college from superb to god-awful.
C. I have a gut feeling my son will be a teacher of some kind some day.
And D. I still teach. I just teach deep soul writing and working in The Intersection instead of third grade.
So I read the article. As I read, I stumbled upon a paragraph that popped off the page. It spoke directly to me and to all writers, that is, all writers who are commited to being great. The paragraph distills Teach for America’s findings on what made teachers great. See what you think:
“…great teachers tended to set big goals…. They were also perpetually looking for ways to improve…. Great teachers constantly re-evalaute what they are doing.
Superstar teachers had four other tendencies in common: They avidely recruited students and their families into the process, they maintained focus…, they planned exhaustively and purposefully–for the next day or the year ahead–by working backward from the desired outcome; and they refused to surrender to the combined menaces of poverty, beaurocracy and budgetary shortfalls.”
What does that have to do with writers trying to write well and get published? Everything. When we work in The Intersection we are accessing the creative power of the universe, but that doesn’t mean that it flows to us without some effort and action on our part. The upcoming telecourse Plug In! The Intersection for Writers is about what actions to take to ensure endless access to that glorious creative flow.
In the last few blogs I talked about my real job for 2010. My job is to create the conditions that allow that flow to happen. And creating those conditions does take focus–relentless repeated focus. Every day we writers rise and renew our commitment to write and write well.
We do the same things Teach America, we
set big goals (getting published in todays world is a HUGE goal)
perpetually look for ways to improve
constantly reevaluate what we’re doing
recruit our friends and families into supporting our writing life
maintain focus (this shuold be number one)
plan how to get to what we want by working backward from it (to get a contract, I need an agent, to get an agent, I need a proposal, to write a proposal, I need….)
refuse to surrender to all the menaces around us
Are you a writer? Is this the year you create your writing life? Find your voice? Get published?
Whether you join Plug In! or not, take whatever wisdom you can from the Teach for America research. Are there any parts of it that resonate for you?