| Teacher Portfolio: Jamie Priddy
a Northern Nevada teacher shares on-line lessons and ideas
I am Jamie Priddy, and I am a Northern Nevada high school English teacher. I have been involved with the Northern Nevada Writing Project for a few years now, and I have learned a lot about my beliefs about writing through my experiences with the Writing Project.
Writing has always been an important part of my curriculum. I have had the opportunity to teach writing at many different grade levels in middle school and high school, and I believe that students at all age levels value one thing in writing: choice. I believe that students really need choice in topic and process. Let me explain…
One of the best experiences I’ve had with the Writing Project is the opportunity to be a writer myself. At first it was difficult to shift from writing teacher to writer, but I embraced the idea when I realized I had an open canvas in which to express my thoughts and ideas as a writer. With just a little bit of direction, I had the freedom to explore topics I wanted to write about – not topics someone else was forcing me to write about. Sometimes what I started with was not what I ended up with in my final pieces of writing. I valued the freedom to explore my ideas as a writer and try out a few topics before deciding on what I would write about.
I took this idea back to my classroom, and I have been able to successfully work in some amount of choice into each writing assignment my students are involved with. Sometimes the choices are wide open to the students, and sometimes the choices are more narrowed down for them. Often I am met with, “You mean we can write about whatever we want to write about?” when the choice is left wide open for students. I don’t think students are frequently given choice, and it is a great thing to see what they do with that choice. Students have authentic ideas to share with us in their writing, and when left to decide for themselves how they will shape a piece of writing with their topic they do great things.
I also believe that students need choice in the writing process. During my participation in the Writing Project Summer Invitational, I had the opportunity to read Vicki Spandel’s book The 9 Rights of Every Writer. Vicki Spandel says that students have “the right” to personalize the process of writing. To me this means that the process isn’t something to take my students through systematically each time they write, but that it is something I need to teach them how to use to best benefit themselves. Students need to have the choice to pre-write in a way that makes sense to them. Students need the choice to draft in a way that best fits their style – some students want paper and pencil in front of them and some students have to start with the computer. Students also need to make the choice of taking drafts through more than one revision or edit. When students are taught how to use the process, instead of how to follow the steps without thinking about how or why they are doing them, they can take their writing to new and more meaningful levels.
I believe when students are given choice they put a great value on what they are writing and how they are writing it. They achieve things they weren’t even sure they thought possible in their writing. All of this is evident when you see the proud looks on their faces after accomplishing a great piece of writing.
“If we want students to write with voice, they must have real choice in their writing regarding content, organization, and form. As teachers of writing, it is our job to show students how to make responsible and gratifying decisions, as well as to negotiate possibilities with them.” – Regie Routman, Conversations