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Tuesday, April 26, 2016
How Do We Create Great Writers?
do teachers, tutors, parents and coaches create great students, athletes, and
takes a village to raise greatness. It
begins with the child and his or her DNA, social upbringing at home, the community
environment, and the era in which they were raised. Things like race, wealth and other
demographics can certainly play a role too.
Children are the result of a physical-psychological-economical cocktail.
Still, I wonder how any one individual can make a significant difference in the
life of a child.
parent and an amateur sports coach, I always try to teach kids the raw skills
and the psychological approach to whatever they are doing. My belief is everyone, at every level, can
benefit from coaching and motivation, and can always improve by some
incremental amount. Great players can be
even greater. Mediocre students can excel higher. Low-performing writers can
rise and show vast improvement.
the heat of the moment, adults forget that kids are kids. They tune you out on purpose – they know
better! They zone out and get easily
distracted -- ooh look, a butterfly! They
can be emotional, sensitive, and touchy.
They can be tired, unfocused, unmotivated or even bored. You may love a sport or value knowledge or
worship the art of writing – but kids need to be nourished, molded, and
encouraged to discover their strengths, convictions, and passions. They can’t live out our dreams. They must pursue theirs.
we end up pushing children away from what we love most. We’re too intense, too aggressive, and just
overtly pushy when trying to pass on our experiences and knowledge. The
children get overwhelmed by your suggestions and prodding. They need to feel they own their lives and
that we are there for times when they feel they need us.
want to do things their way and develop their own style. They want
encouragement but not to be pushed beyond their comfort level or safety
zone. They went to succeed without
practicing, to achieve without always having to try so hard. They get jealous of fellow teammates or
classmates who seem to naturally and effortlessly conquer any challenge.
they need us, whether they know it or not. For our youth to become tomorrow’s
writers, scientists, and even professional athletes they need volunteers,
trained professionals, guardians, and coaches to help them rise above their
abilities, expectations, or desires.
think the keys to getting the most out of children when seeking to teach them
something is the following:
encourage them. Let them know you
believe they are capable of doing better and of accomplishing the task at
hand. Everyone needs to hear it.
positive reinforcement to reward good behavior. Praise their effort as much as the result.
possible, let the child know how to do something better. Every moment is a teaching opportunity. Even if a child does something that results
in a run scored for his team, show him or her how to do it better or how he
could’ve done it differently.
acknowledge great plays or excellent essays or wonderful test scores. The child feels proud when others hear of
patient. You have to tell a kid
something scores of times until it clicks in their heads. “Oh, so that’s how you do it?”
assume a good result means your work is done.
Kids can easily go into a slump or develop bad habits or forget what
they did right. Adults still need constant reminders to do their jobs well -- kids
certainly are no different.
you need to accept a child’s limitations.
They may not be physically coordinated or mentally suited or
intellectually-gifted to process a certain task. Never give up on them, but allow yourself to
move on to other skills and challenges.
give up too quickly. Just because a child initially struggles with a task
doesn’t mean they won’t turn a corner. Make sure you give them enough tries and
training before tossing in the towel.
a break and just have fun. Let the kids express what they want to do and try it
their way. Instead of them doing things
the way you think they should be done, let the kids tell or show you how they
want to approach things.
your methods, your words, your tone. Yes, you may be the problem. Each child
responds to certain approaches. Change
your approach if it’s not working and see if a new style gets the job done.
was inspired to be a writer at any early age.
My dad said he wanted to be a writer but didn’t pursue it. He did however write many letters to the Congress,
White House, and newspapers, protesting the Vietnam War. His activist voice
stuck with me. I had good teachers as
well. In the end, I think I became a
good writer because I followed my passion and spent many hours naturally and
instinctively honing my craft. I had the
inner confidence to know I had something worth saying and that I’d find the
right way to say it. Words have such
power and writing them down allows me to map out a one-sided argument without a
rebuttal. In my mind, I’m always right!
lot of things children are taught or told come from volunteers. The volunteers
often lack professional training. Sometimes they teach the wrong things, fail
to break bad habits, or say negative things.
In such cases, not only are kids not taught how to improve, but their
dreams get ignored or crushed.
develop great writers, I would suggest the following:
them to all kinds of genres and types of books – let them see there are many
styles and subjects out there.
them to free-write – without worrying about spelling, editing, or even grammar.
them used to keeping a journal but don’t encourage them to post so much of
themselves on social media just yet – they first need to develop their voice
and protect their privacy.
them how to conduct research and how to decipher if a source is reliable.
them new words every day.
them to ask questions – it all starts with a curious mind.
whatever they share with you, ask them how they could’ve made it better or
different, and offer a strategy to improve upon it.
them to write how they feel and to speak their truth – even if it goes against
the wishes, expectations, standards, or desire of others.
gift of writing is the best gift of all – next to the gift of love. Maybe writing is love. I know I love writing
and so will millions of others from every generation. They just need a good support system. Are you ready to mentor the next great
writer? It’s not too late to become the writer you know you are capable of
being – keep learning and teach others.