The Writing Is Thinking team is a group of dedicated teachers who deeply wish to help our students express their incredible ideas, thoughts, and opinions. We want our students to have a voice and to be heard through writing. When our team arrived at the 2015 Teach to Lead Summit at the Wharf Marriot in Boston, we only had a rough question: How can teachers systematically support English Language Learners and students with disabilities to express their understanding by thoughtfully implementing writing across the curriculum?
This question has transformed into an exciting project in which the middle school teachers at two schools in Boston Public Schools, representing multiple contents, are collaborating to design thoughtful Writing Across the Curriculum strategies and artifacts. In this way, we seek to accomplish two main goals: increase teacher capacity to implement WAC and increase the capacity of all students to express their understanding. Despite the fact that we represent different contents, we do share one common belief:
All teachers are writing teachers; all students are writers in all content areas. Writing experiences and opportunities must be deliberately planned in all content classes.
In addition to refining our idea, during the summit I had the opportunity to attend seminars focused on teacher leadership. It was during this time that I had a career changing realization: I need to aspire to be more than a great teacher; I need to aspire to be a great teacher leader. Not because I crave power or want to be in a leadership role. For me, teacher leadership is not done for power but for our students. Our collaboration with colleagues, quest to improve our practice, and influence on educational policy and instructional decisions are done, first and foremost, with our students’ best interests at heart. And who better to know the best interest of our students than us teachers?
Our project WritingIsThinking.org is ultimately for our students but it is inherently teacher leadership in action. In the September 2007 issue of Educational Leadership: Teachers As Leaders, Cindy Harrison and Joellen Killion list and explain the “Ten Roles for Teacher Leaders.” The ten roles include:
- Resource provider
- Instructional specialist
- Curriculum specialist
- Classroom supporter
- Learning facilitator
- School leader
- Data coach
- Catalyst for change
What I love most about this article is that teachers are providing these resources and services for teachers. These roles can occur organically, through the collaboration of colleagues or they can be formally implemented. We as teachers need to share the things we do and open our classroom doors; we need to make it a point to go into our colleagues’ classrooms, notice what they are doing, and learn something new. This action will help to shape our school and professional culture, it will positively affect student learning, and we will share practices among colleagues. WritingIsThinking.org is inextricably connected to teacher leadership. We are sharing resources with each other, colleagues, and the community by starting a blog. We are affecting instruction and curriculum by planning WAC in our classrooms and sharing our work at conferences. We are learning from each other by meeting once a month at each others houses, reading books together, looking at student work together, and video recording each others’ classes and practices. Most importantly, we are doing this to ignite student learning and expression in classrooms across Boston.