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A Writing Coach Reflects

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since I started last August as a Writing Coach here at Options, I have certainly learned a lot—how to better teach students to write, how to create instructional materials, and, of course, how to adapt quickly to big changes! As I reflect on the year, I’ve come up with a list of five important things my first year as a Writing Coach has taught me.

Eli, another Writing Coach, and I debrief after a Writing Workshop.

I’ve learned…

…apostrophes are my favourite grammar rule to teach.  
I spend a lot of my time teaching grammar, and I often feel like a magician, wowing my students by deftly pulling a semi-colon or subordinating conjunction out of my hat. The best part is when I finally reveal my tricks, explaining what’s up my sleeve and showing students that the apostrophe after the ‘s’ for plural possessive nouns isn’t so mysterious after all.  

…writing ability varies widely—not by grade level but by student.  
Grade twelve students can be just as overwhelmed at the prospect of a research essay as a grade nine student. Instead of making assumptions based on a student’s grade, I’ve learned to meet each student where they are without judgement. Of course, achieving grade-level standards is important for academic success (that’s where a Writing Coach comes in), but often, a bit of guidance, extra encouragement, and the space to practice writing without the pressure of marks are all a student need to improve as a writer. 

…creating instructional materials can be exciting!   
As an instructor, I have been excited to return to poems and short stories I read when I was a student. Thinking about the best way to teach texts that have inspired me—in the hope that they might, one day, inspire others—has been challenging but fun. Check out the blog I wrote on how to read poetry for an example of a poem that was exciting to revisit.

…teaching executive functioning skills requires listening.
Students can become overwhelmed by the number of assignments, tests, extra-curriculars, and volunteer activities they’re juggling. My initial role in teaching study skills is to give students space to express their anxieties and the challenges they are facing. From there, we work together to break down big tasks into more manageable chunks; we create study schedules, to-do lists, and note-taking strategies. All of this is made successful, however, by fulfilling my role as both listener and cheerleader.  

university application season is my favourite time of the year.  
University application season is a stressful time for many of our students and their families, but for a Writing Coach, it means spending each and every day listening to stories. Helping students turn their interests, hobbies, and experiences into authentic essays is extremely rewarding, and I look forward to the beginning of another fall.

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