Teacher Development

How Teachers Benefit From Writing

Writing in private or for an audience can deepen reflection and empathy for students. Plus: websites that accept submissions.

May 2, 2018
A teacher using her laptop and a notebook to write
©iStock/Peopleimages

When I started writing a blog, I felt like an imposter. It was as if I was pretending to be a “writer.” When I hit the publish button on my first post, I was sure that some sort of writing police were going to burst through my webpage with red pens clutched in their hands. “You’re not a writer!” they’d bellow. And I would have agreed—I did not feel like a writer.

But as a teacher, I was a writer. In fact, I was writing every day. All teachers are writers—we write emails, lesson plans, newsletters, assignments, and so much more.

We may not often think about it, but there are many benefits of writing for ourselves and for an audience, and there are many venues for publishing our work. The first step to accessing all these benefits is to accept a simple truth: We’re already writers.

Writing Reflectively Helps Us Grow

Writing reflectively is a quick but impactful way to improve both our professional and personal lives. We can process successes and plan improvements after failures when we document our days.

In his book Learning by Doing, Oxford professor Graham Gibbs suggests that writing reflectively can be extremely helpful for cognitive growth. When we write about questions like “What went well today? What could have gone better? How will I change my actions in the future?” we improve ourselves.

Keeping a journal is one of the easiest ways to access the benefits of reflective writing. Challenge yourself to achieve a reasonable writing goal each day at a time that consistently fits your schedule best. My life is generally calmest in the evenings, so I try to write for 10 minutes before bed.

Writing Helps Us Empathize

Writing can help us become better writing teachers. We’re able to empathize with our students’ positive and negative experiences as writers when we write ourselves.

The goal is just to write—not necessarily to write well. Writing is hard for everyone; writing well is near impossible. But that’s the beauty of writing—that intense feeling of struggle when we’re putting pen to paper, or fingertips to keyboard, is not exclusive to teachers. Our students feel it, too. And being able to have authentic conversations with students about the hardships of writing creates a more supportive writing culture in the classroom.

Each year, I have my students write short stories following the structure of the Heroic Journey, and I write alongside them. One time, my hero was a stressed mother and her journey was taking her three kids to Taco Bell. It was a valiant tale of love, loss, and quesadillas, but it wasn’t going to win any awards. But in part because we shared the writing experience, my students and I had productive conversations about our writing processes.

Writing Helps You Spread Your Voice

Writing is a cost-effective way to share our ideas, and there are many opportunities for educators to have their voices heard.

Writing About Education-Related Topics

You can also inquire about writing opportunities with the educational organizations you’re part of. The National Council of Teachers of English, for example, has a blog that accepts proposals from guest authors.

Writing About Non-Education-Related Topics

You could also start your own blog using free platforms like Weebly, Wordpress, Wix, or Blogger.

The practice of writing consistently has made an incredible difference in my life. Embracing the identity of a writer has made me a more reflective and empathetic teacher.