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The First Pancake: How Two Rookie Mistakes Shaped My Journey as a Writing Teacher

The aroma of sizzling bacon, eggs, and pancakes permeating the house, gently rousing me from slumber, evokes vivid memories of Saturday mornings during my childhood. In those cherished moments, my mom's culinary mastery would grace our table with a delectable stack of pancakes, except for one. That initial pancake, often haphazardly poured into the pan before the ideal temperature or prematurely flipped, stood out as the imperfect outlier.

Now, as I celebrate the recent high school graduation of my firstborn, Cameron, I endearingly refer to him as my very own first pancake. If you've ever stood over a stove flipping pancakes, you'll grasp the significance behind this endearing nickname. Yet, beyond the realm of breakfast delicacies, there lies a parallel in the realm of teaching writing to our own children—a venture that requires the need to acknowledge and learn from our own mistakes along the way.

With genuine humility, I feel compelled to open up about the mistakes I've made, even though it's not always easy to admit them. My intention in sharing these experiences is to free every parent from the weighty expectation of perfection and to let you know that I'm right there with you, learning alongside you, rather than pretending to be an all-knowing authority. These insights, born from my own personal journey and enriched by the invaluable resources from the Institute for Excellence in Writing, are meant to offer guidance and support as we navigate the intricate path of teaching writing to our own children. Let's embark on this adventure together, admitting imperfections and celebrating growth.

Mistake #1: Overcorrection:

One significant mistake I made when I started teaching writing to my own children was overcorrecting their work. According to IEW, excessive correction can stifle a child's creativity and make the writing process intimidating.

To strike the right balance, it is crucial to offer constructive feedback while still encouraging creative expression. Rather than focusing solely on correcting mistakes, provide guidance that highlights your child's strengths and gently addresses areas that require improvement. This approach fosters their confidence and allows their unique voice to shine through in their writing. I also learned to catch them doing something right and to avoid lecturing. One resource I found helpful was IEW's Letter to the Editor Podcast and resources.

I also learned to catch them doing something right and to avoid lecturing.

Mistake #2: Over Expectation

The second mistake I made was setting unrealistic expectations for my children's writing abilities. According to IEW, recognizing and embracing each child's individual progress and growth is crucial in effective writing instruction. They also emphasize the importance of providing assistance and support during the learning process. In fact, Andrew Pudewa, the developer of this program, states that we can never help our children too much. By setting expectations that were unrealistic for my individual children, I inadvertently created an environment that made them feel frustrated and overwhelmed in the beginning.

Instead of imposing external benchmarks, celebrate your child's achievements, no matter how small. Set realistic goals and focus on incremental improvements. Also, if you have a child who struggles, it is important that they be able to move at their own pace. By fostering a supportive and non-judgmental atmosphere, you create an environment where your children can flourish as writers. I found the IEW SPED material extremely helpful to help me improve as a writer as well as Andrew Pudewa's blog post about the 4 Deadly Errors of Teaching Writing.

By fostering a supportive and non-judgmental atmosphere, you create an environment where your children can flourish as writers.

Through humble introspection and a commitment to growth, I have learned invaluable lessons from my past mistakes. As I reflect on my child, Cameron, who has recently graduated and embarked on a promising journey, I can't help but marvel at the transformation that has taken place in both of us. Our relationship has blossomed, nurtured by my newfound understanding and avoidance of these past pitfalls.

Overall, these experiences have taught me the importance of letting go of the burden of perfection and embracing the journey of learning alongside our children. As I implemented the insights gained from my own missteps, today I am proud to witness his confidence and skill as he expresses his thoughts and ideas with clarity and creativity.

So, fellow parents, take heart and find solace in the knowledge that even in our imperfections, there lies an opportunity for growth. Embrace the lessons learned and try to avoid the mistakes. Thankfully, my "first pancake" survived my mistakes and thrived despite my early missteps. Together, let us nurture an environment where our children can thrive as writers, and where our love and support serve as the cornerstone for their success.

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