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Making conferring has become the greatest shift in my practice because I learn something, each time, to help that student grow. Infinitely more helpful than reading their work with the intention of assessing it, conferring leads to an attitude of mentoring. And when I started mentoring I became a more supportive, encouraging teacher.

I am more aware of mentoring and supportive environments even in my reading life. I'm fascinated by the creative partnership of Lennon and McCartney. But I was unhinged when I read Judd Apatow's book Sick in the Head. For me, it read like a series of writing conferences between Apatow and dozens of comedians. Each person spoke to the critical component of encouragement and mentoring in their lives--often coming from people already accomplished in the craft.

And Apatow phrased his approach as hanging around other comedians. Isn't that what we do with our writing conferences? (I do.) Apatow also used a wonderful phrase (part of a tribe) that is often in the back of my mind when I make decisions in the classroom: "One thing I took from these interviews is that these people were part of a tribe."

I notice that my students (slowly) want to become a part of the tribe of readers and writers when immersed in an environment of readers and writers who read and write for their purposes, their curiosity, their enjoyment. Not mine. Not yours.

The sooner we can help students help us create a tribe of readers and writers (with an attitude that we learn from one another not just the teacher) the sooner we can transfer the behaviors of learning from great books. While reading for pleasure and joy, it is possible for students to learn how to notice how the writer did what he/she did. It is possible for students to ask questions when we do not know how to identify what the writer is doing. It is possible to unlock the door of a lifetime of mentors who will help students on their journey especially after they leave our classrooms.

Janet Emig's early anecdote (particularly the quote above from a teenager) in The Web of Meaning (1983) contains so many rich words as phrases worth exploring as an educator: never remember, inspired, rewrite (rather than revise), only, and technical.

Among that short list of words, my "favorite" to examine and reflect upon might be only.

When I read The Web of Meaning several years ago (purchased for under five dollars from Amazon), I began to dismantle and examine my philosophy of teaching and learning, my philosophy of reading and writing, and my philosophy of growth. Part of the autopsy included a hard look at how editing marks and an attitude of correction underserves the teenagers in our classrooms.

Not only am I not convinced that an attitude of correction helps people grow as writers, I believe it chokes out the possibility of growth. If all we do is correct papers, if we all we do is emphasize a weeding out of errors, then all we do is spray unchecked pesticides on acres and acres of stunted environment.

Inspired by my friend @triciabarvia, and her blog post Steal Like an Artist: A Swipe File of Mentor Texts, I could't help but think that digital devices such as tablets and phones have been subtly encouraging us "to swipe" the ideas all along.

If we attend conferences we have all seen people take photos of slides. I know people have saved "images" of cute cupcakes, classroom design, and home design. Pinterest became a bit of a crowdsourced Swipe File for teachers, home cooks, et al.

Yet, the phones in our pockets can also hold a lot of power in personalized swipe files for writers. For the purpose of this post, I created a photo album called "Swipe File" and started moving photos over of ideas I have "swiped" from other teachers, writers, and artists on Twitter or from a conference. I can feel the influences on my thinking becoming organize themselves in my brain as I do it.

Showing our kids how to organize a digital swipe file for themselves--right in their photo album--is a positive forward in promoting the "phone" as the modern equivalent of the paper and pencil notebook--a place to capture ideas. I had kids ask me to go to the library to print something that wanted to place in their analog swipe file--which is fine--but we don't always have that file on us.

Curating specific spaces for ideas so that we might go back to think and write about those ideas is a critical step in teaching young writers to invest in a process.

This one small move strikes me as an easy yet powerful moment of transfer waiting for all of us and all of our students.

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