How to Cultivate Strong Student Writing Identities

This weekend a friend of mine introduced me to a writer who focuses on habits and decision making named James Clear. He isn’t exactly an education writer, but his posts are in many ways completely about education, as they are about how we learn, evolve, and view the world. There was one post in particular called Identity-Based Habits that sent me running to find my notebook for quotes like the following:

Your current behaviors are simply a reflection of your current identity. What you do now is a mirror image of the type of person you believe that you are (either consciously or subconsciously).

I think what grabbed me about Clear’s work is that I’ve been thinking a lot about the massive role identity plays in how students perform in our classes, and his wording so clearly encapsulated what I’d been noticing. The post’s introduction to me was also timely, as my interest in identity has further solidified over the last month as I’ve watched my Juniors go through the spring battery of standardized testing (for regular readers, that is where I’ve been over the last three weeks). While helping them prepare for these tests, I stood amazed by just how much their core beliefs about themselves seemed to control every aspect of how they approached these tests. The students who identified themselves as a bad writers and expected to fail avoided studying at all costs. The message was clear: They knew they were bad, so what was the point and why spend time thinking about something they will never be good at? On the other side, students who identified as strong writers came into my classroom at all hours of the day with stacks of practice essays, highlighted practice questions, and dozens of clarifying questions concerning the most minor rhetorical or mechanical details. They knew that they were good writers, and they were going to ensure the number the test spit out would match their skills. Continue reading “How to Cultivate Strong Student Writing Identities”