At the end of writing workshop last week, J. made his way to the inbox on the conference table in our classroom and stood there for what seemed like a long time. He wanted to drop his writing folder in…then he did not…then he did…then he hesitated…and then he took a moment to leave me a post it note before he did:
His note, when I collected all the folders from our writing day for inspection, made me pause. I was annoyed and disheartened at first (we are in the second marking period of the school year, for Pete’s sake, shouldn’t J. know by now when he was finished drafting? what have I not been teaching to thus far?!), and then amused and touched (clearly, J. is invested in his work – he wants to get even a first draft right, that’s a good thing…hooray, some things are going very well!).
Later that evening, reading J.’s draft, I noted the following:
*he had reworked his introduction three times, all on his own and without a conference.
*he had left question marks next to some sections of his writing – places where he seemed to know that his writing needed work.
*he had tried out craft moves from the mentor text we’d studied and annotated his draft to correlate to the marked up mentor text – as though he was keeping track of what he’d tried out.
In my minds eye, I flashed back to the scene where J. stood by the in box, trying to figure out whether he was “done” or not. I thought of all the work he’d done to make sure this was his “best first draft” – the goal we aim for in writing workshop. And I re-read that endearing post it:
I think I’m done drafting but I don’t know
Doing the work of writing never feels “done”. As a writer myself, I know this. J. does too, it seems, for in spite of all the work he has already put into his “best first draft, he feels that writer’s uncertainty: am I done? I don’t think I’m done…I think I could do better…right?
As a writer, I feel J.’s pain…but, as his writing teacher, I am (secretly) celebrating.