Writing Is Important

"How do you spell.... Nevermind."

That made me look up. I'd been reading John Holt - one of his early books on schooling, written when he still thought it could be reformed (*). Now I watched her for a few minutes. She was using the chat or instant message service on her Facebook account, managing several conversations at once.

Long ago, a graveyard's time ago, when I was being trained, it was stressed that writing should be part of every class because it is important to literacy improvement. When people were unable to write, dictation and copying-over were the next best things. In any case, it was said, one key to adult literacy development was the purposeful use of written language. Encourage them to write, I was told, and you will help them learn to write more and better. We learn by doing.

I agreed, and still do. But, then, they went on to teach me the time honored way to encourage them to write. Put one or two journal topics up on the board, they said. Make sure everyone - me included - wrote or dictated their thoughts. Read back these writings. Share.

I'm probably giving the whole journal thing a short shrift (is that a word?). But it felt phony and schoolish and... imposed.

My first departure was offering caption writing as an alternative. We had a stack of old National Geographic that provided interesting and mysterious images. We tried our hand at making our own Christmas cards and such. Soon enough we were writing movie or game reviews, or comics and short stories for our own amusement. Later came the newsletter phase. Now we blog or chat, or send emails to each other and our families and friends.

Sometimes, stories still get written. Sometimes, birthday cards still get made. I mean, we're not complete geeks. Sometimes people just want to do some pen and paper writing - it's all good. If they want help deciding what to write about, I have a list of 251 writing ideas.

It didn't happen painlessly. Some people I nagged to write: that's a stupid and ineffective thing to do, but I did it, uselessly, for months at a time. I hardly ever do that now. There were a couple of awkward meetings where supervisors tried to bring me back to the daily journal fold. (More ineffective nagging.) But I... persevered, or something.

And, tonight, I looked up to see a lower-level learner running multiple online conversations, writing for meaning, solving her own spelling problems. There was no nagging involved. Want to know why?

Because writing is only important when it is important to us.

We learn by doing. We learn what we want. Everything else is school.


PurpleSparkleBright said...

How very wise! Reading what you've written has made my day and inspired me to write- so you're doing alright there!!!

Wendell said...

Oh sure... Like you need extra inspiration with Tintagel hanging about the place... LOL

Come by often, and tell me when you've finished that new font. :)