As I was waiting for my flight to board from a much needed vacation this week, I decided to take one last quick scroll through a few of my inboxes before my journey home. While scrolling, I recognized a name I hadn’t quite thought about in recent years. I carefully scrolled back up my smartphone screen as my thumb finger hovered over a name that was frequently seen and vocalized in my household 8 years ago. It suddenly dawned on me that this was a message from my oldest son’s kindergarten teacher. As I gazed at her name, my mind took me back in time. I could clearly see my now 13 year old son’s 5 year old kindergarten face skipping joyfully to the bus stop, filled with enthusiasm and excitement as he was always ready for a new day of wonder and discovering what it means to be a learner. “Mrs. H is so kind, Mommy. She is always smiling when I walk into the classroom, she never yells, and tells me I’m a reader, I’m a writer, I can do things.” were the daily sentiments that rested on his lighthearted, malleable heart. My thoughts were interrupted by me curiously clicking on the unexpected and unpredictable message.
As I began reading the message, I remembered hearing that she had moved from New York to Florida many years ago. She had crossed my mind every time I looked at old photos or projects my son lovingly and eagerly created in her class. I anticipated that the message would be a quick hello, possibly checking-in on my son, her former student, or perhaps because she knew I was in education, she would have a question or two about a topic on her mind. Instead, I received this message:
Tears collected in my grateful eyes as I pictured Mrs. H over 1,000 miles away listening to her principal read a blog post titled Riding the Waves of Change to her faculty that I had written during the height of the pandemic. I had written that post with a lot of emotion and change pushing on my heart and resting on my shoulders. And some way, somehow, her principal found my writing appropriate to read on the first day of school to help set the tone for the year to possibly motivate, inspire, and influence her staff. Together, they can ride the waves of change, collectively celebrate their big and small wins, and overcome any obstacles that can be unexpectedly thrust upon them in the ever changing landscape of education.
Why Do I Write?
This message encouraged me to revisit the following, “Why do you write, Lauren?” is a question I am asked frequently. I do not have one particular answer. The truth is, there are many reasons, but here are a few that rise to the top of my list. Perhaps these may be the very reasons that inspire both you and your students to take the leap and write a little more than you have considered before.
- To Document My Learning – A few years ago, I connected with George Couros through using his book the Innovator’s Mindset for a book study in the mentor program I facilitated in a previous school district. I was always inspired and influenced by George’s writing and had several opportunities to share my thinking and ideas with him. One day, during a virtual mentor meeting that he visited, he challenged me in front of the group of mentors/mentees to start blogging on my own platform. “But George, what would I have to share that no one else knows or has seen before?” I often shared. “Lauren, you write for yourself to reflect on your own learning,” George would confidently reply. He went on to say that what may be obvious to you, is not always obvious to others. That made me pause. He is right. How many times have you shared an idea that was obvious to you, but were shocked to learn that others were hearing it for the first time? We revisited this dialogue and my writing journey in THIS #InnovatorsMindset podcast titled, Why Mentorship Matters! Here is a wonderful video that is shared in the podcast mentioned above titled, Obvious to you. Amazing to Others. It will take less than 2 minutes to watch and can be encouraging for writers (educators and students) who may feel hesitant to share their ideas in writing.
2. To Make the Invisible, Visible – Adam Grant recently shared the following graphic and sentiment in a tweet below. “Writing isn’t what you do after you have an idea. It’s how you develop an inkling into an insight. Turning thoughts into words sharpens reasoning. What’s fuzzy in your head is clear on the page. “I’m not a writer” shouldn’t stop you from writing. Writing is a tool for thinking.” I think I read this tweet several times. Each time I read it, I said the big word YES in my head even more! Like most educators, I cannot turn off my thinking switch. I am constantly creating ideas in my head and when I get into that zone, I need to write! Some are ideas that have already been implemented and others are newer versions of those ideas. One of the strategies I used to craft ideas, is that I use the notes section in my phone to write what I am thinking. That is exactly what I started to do in the airport and on the airplane as I thought about writing this post. In addition to that, I use it as a space to collect notes and quotes from books I read and presentations I attend. Just like a puzzle, I piece those ideas together to form new ones, I write about and implement them. Overtime, I have been able to bring more clarity to my thinking by writing. I can then continuously revisit that space to curate my resources and refine my practices.
3. To Connect with Others – I am not concerned with the amount of “likes”, retweets, or comments my writing receives. That’s not why I write. I write to reflect on my own learning and for that reason, I am not always aware that my collection of writing has inadvertently expanded my impact and broadened my reach to other people I may have not known before. I know that writing brings people together. This has been proven to me time and time again as I have connected with educators by asking me questions about my writing, practices, and perspectives on various educational topics. I have collaborated with some of those educators on writing projects, presentations, and other educational endeavors. I have even visited and gone on vacations with some! Most of these amazing people have become a vital part of my professional learning network and serve as sounding boards, mentors, and guides. Your impact can reach far and wide through writing and the connections you make can forge significant collaborations and friendships that can sharpen your lens and impact your future.
Back to the Beginning
I took my seat on the airplane and thought about the message I received the entire plane ride home. Isn’t it ironic how a teacher who made a significant impact on my son’s perception of learning was now sitting in her new school listening to her principal read a piece of writing I wrote a few years ago? In that particular post, I shared, “As we move forward in an ever-changing educational landscape and make teaching and learning practices more accessible for students, families, and educators, it could also be a good time to revalue decisions that involve change. Go below the surface, explore the inner workings of the system…there is so much more to take in.”
You’re a Writer
Are you thinking about going below the surface to deepen your reflections and share your voice with others? YOU have so much to offer and others have so much more to take in. Writing has the potential to travel into the hands of those who need it. The beautiful part about it is that it doesn’t need a stamp or shipping box. It needs a space to manifest your spirit, nurture your ideas, and capture your inner thoughts. Writing can cultivate courage in others. Writing is a reflection of who you are and who you want to be. Your impact stretches farther and resonates more deeply than you think. The world will be a little better with your voice in it. YOU are a writer… you can do these things.