In ninth or tenth grade, I wrote a story on the life of a piece of pocket lint. I don’t remember details about that piece of pocket lint, but I know it had an epic journey, and I felt good when I turned in the assignment. When my teacher returned my story to me, a big red F glowed across the top of the paper with a note that read, “You wrote a wonderful essay, but the assignment was to write a short story.”
Ouch! Thus I learned I’m a natural essayist. Over the years, however, I’ve learned to write a decent story (and a better essay) because of immersing myself in reading and writing.
Improved writing may not seem like a desired outcome for educator self care, but educators write a lot. Take as Exhibit A the comment my teacher wrote on my essay. She succinctly and simultaneously praised me and critiqued me. That comment was a beautiful piece of rhetoric, fully capturing my teacher’s personality. I had this teacher for both 9th and 10th grade English, and she didn’t mince words. She told us what she thought, but she also encouraged us to improve. I didn’t enjoy having her as a teacher, but I’m glad I did. She daily modeled the power of language.
Language, via the written word, is a large portion of educator communication, whether it’s in a lesson plan, on a smart board, in an email with a parent or colleague, in a journal article, or what have you. The self care of reading and journaling encompasses the bonus of becoming a better writer, which makes life easier. Who doesn’t want that?
The two best ways to improve writing are reading and writing.
Reading exposes you to various styles, genres, and tones. It also immerses you in grammatical and mechanical patterns of the language. Reading builds your vocabulary, and it inspires you by example (both what to do and what not to do).
The more you do something, the better you get at it, so naturally, journaling improves your writing. When journaling becomes a habit, you unlock your own writing voice because you’re working in a private space without an audience (meaning you’re not worried about how you seem to others). It’s in this space where you develop your unique writing voice, with its own rhythm and use of language, that you can then use with a wider audience. Using your own voice in your writing makes your message authentic and alive.
As I contemplate my writing growth, I realize voice excited me about my essay on the life of a piece of pocket lint. Your writing voice reflects your personality, how you see the world, how you describe the world. I’m a person who assumes pocket lint has grand adventures. Quirky? Sure. But uniquely me. My writing reflected that.
Up to that point in my life, I wrote and read copiously, perhaps compulsively. After that experience, however, I turned away from writing and fanciful reading. I became more cautious in my subject matter and expression. Returning to reading and journaling later in life redirected me, and now I more freely unleash my voice in my writing. I’m better for it, and I like to think my writing is, too.
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I am doing a 31-day series on reading and journaling as self care for educators. Each day of the series has bonus journal prompts. Click to join the LELA House family of educators committed to nourishing their reading, writing, and creative souls. You’ll receive a link to the journal prompts and gain early access to upcoming LELA House ideas, courses, and products. You only need to subscribe once. I will add a new worksheet each day to the access link.
Roshaunda D. Cade, Ph.D. is an educator, writer, and creator. She offers life coaching and writing coaching to educators, as well as other opportunities for educators to practice self care through reading and writing. Check out her LELA House website to learn more about her services. Roshaunda lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband and teenage children and enjoys reading, writing, dancing, and pushing her creative boundaries.