Earlier this school year, I accomplished one of my longtime career goals–submitting an article for publication in an professional academic journal. The Wisconsin English Journal ran the article that I wrote this past summer, which was based on the work I did with the UW-Milwaukee Writing Project in 2013. For anyone who’d like to read it, here’s the link to the table of contents for Vol. 56, No. 2. You’ll see the link to the .pdf of my article entitled “Crucial Creativity: Addressing State Standards While Fostering Creative Student Authorship” toward the bottom of the page. In her letter from the editor, Mary Louise Gomez previews the article as such:
“Amy Harter provides a strong
argument against a perceived call of the
Wisconsin Common Core State Standards
(CCSS) for more non-fiction writing and less
creative writing. Harter argues that creative
writing is indeed a powerful and engaging
genre into which students can be inducted.
This author presents powerful arguments for
the writing of poetry, plays, song lyrics, and
other so-called “creative writing” that also
are key ways to form arguments and affect
Words cannot explain how proud I am to have my first journal article publication under my belt. It not only represents many, many hours of impassioned research, writing, revising, talking-out, and polishing, but it also represents a step toward “making it” as a professional who contributes meaningfully to the academic side of our profession.
Isn’t it strange that, as educators, we still sometimes have a hard time viewing ourselves as academics? For me, seeing my name in print brought me to tears–it gave me a soaring feeling of professional validation. And it cannot be overstated how important professional validation is for teachers–for the many of us who were asked back in college to justify why on earth we’d choose this career over others of greater promise, for the many of us who have been casually scoffed at for our small salaries, for the many of us who wonder how we might hope to be viewed as professionals in a culture that doesn’t always respect or understand what we do. For us, a sense of validation and celebration of our research, ideas, and achievements, is huge.
Here’s the thing about that–writing is the path that allows us to explore, define, and share our ideas about our profession. For this reason, I think far greater numbers of practicing K-12 teachers need to be lending their voices to the field of education through professional writing. Maybe it’s an article for a journal. Maybe it’s a conference or workshop session proposal. Maybe it’s an editorial or letter to a public official. Maybe it’s a piece of original curriculum. Or, hey, maybe it’s a blog! 🙂
The message is this, fellow teachers: You can, and should, do it.
Because teachers deserve to learn about things in their field from others who are currently practicing within it.
Because you already do action research in your classroom every day as you introduce new teaching techniques and observe their effects on your students. You are, by virtue of your position, making observations and tracking data. Teacher = researcher.
Because the expertise lent by your experience in the classroom, especially when put in the context of current educational research, is invaluable.
Because you are a professional, and have the capacity to influence and lead in your profession.
Because it can give a meaningful focus and purpose to your professional reading.
Because it is a way to earn the validation that you deserve as a professional educator.
Because you already have the support you need to write and publish a piece of professional writing, even if you don’t know it yet. Talk to your peers, talk to presenters at conferences, get involved in a National Writing Project site near you, or send an email of inquiry to a publication you’d like to submit to. Many of them have very responsive editing staffs who, even if they don’t accept your piece, will send you a response with suggestions to make your future writing more successful.
There are many, many opportunities out there for teachers to offer their voices to the conversations surrounding what education can and will look like in the future. Consider offering yours. If I can do it, so can you. 🙂