When thinking of independence in the context of school, we might think about students doing things on their own — initiating tasks and persisting through challenges. Once this kind of independence is reached, we can maximize teaching through conferences and small groups.
But what if we reached for the kind of independence that stretches beyond classroom walls — independence that carries on after the school day, after the school year, long into the future of our students’ lives? What more could we ask for than the writers in our classroom becoming writers in the world? That’s the dream: writers writing in the wild.
It wasn’t until I became independent in my own writing life that I could truly understand, truly empathize with the work asked of students each day. Beyond the kind of writing I do professionally, I write in a journal, I write poetry (my go-to genre), I write stories to family members and friends in the form of letters. There is some writing I have to do, but the writing I choose to do — the exploratory, messy, from-the-heart, best writing is where it’s easiest to find my voice in a sea of words. In this kind of writing, I found myself identifying as writer, and as a writer, I found a major difference between writing in schools and writing in the world:
As a writer, I rarely begin with genre. Instead, I begin with a purpose or an inspiration for writing. Genre, then, becomes a tool for conveying an idea to a specific audience, as illustrated in the example below: