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If we can agree that each student lives within his/her own feelings, on any given day, we experience dozens of individual environments within each class. Some student simmer with optimism. Others boil over in joy or frustration or resignation. We all know students who clam up. We all know students who chitter away. Every student is different and few (if any) are in the same place every day.

Some days may be better writing days for some than others, and by listening to where as many are each day, our teaching decisions can help move more young writers towards the success each wants to feel and own.

If listening is the primary role we adopt in a conference, if we actually do create more time to confer with more students. Don Murray suggests that when teachers listen, a writing conference can actually be short and effective. I wonder if when we say we do not have time to confer that we really mean we do not have time to talk to/at every student. We have a lot we could say and not enough minutes in a class to say it.

I continue to pay attention to this as I remind myself to listen...listen...listen. Just listen. Notice where their talking takes them. Notice where their peers overhearing (and often offering help) takes them. Notice where their being encouraged to think out loud takes them.

"For me, drawing has always been the most fundamental way of engaging the world. I am convinced that it is only through drawing that I actually look at things carefully. The act of drawing makes me conscious of what I am looking at. If I wasn't drawing, I sense that I would not be seeing...I went to a lecture of [Frank Wilson] in Boston a few months ago and at the lecture he said, 'When children are prevented from drawing, their brains don't develop fully.' I found that a very compelling argument for why drawing is essential to understanding form...For me, drawing has always been a primary way of encountering reality." --Milton Glaser, graphic designer

The more I teach and the more I read the more flexible I become as a mentor of students...the more I prioritize their learning over everything else--including judgment-based assessment. If a student fails or struggles, they get to keep trying even as others may move forward or in a different direction for now. I can't misread their failure, confusion, or frustration with laziness or not wanting to succeed.

When I struggle, it is often a colleague or a mentor who protects me, supports me, and encourages me.

All of our students should see and experience learning in their school in the same way.

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