I’m not teaching my kids to write. It seems like this would be shocking, since I’m a writer. But actually, I’ve taught enough writing to know that you can’t teach people to write well. This is because good writing comes from practice and from a lot of reading. So I’m not teaching them anything because we are all good writers if we keep the teacher voice out of our heads.
The teacher voice is behind most of the bad writing you see all around. And the good writing comes only from someone who is writing like they talk or think—and everyone has that voice already. Using it comes from bravery. So good writing comes from bravery and your voice and not from a teacher whatsoever.
The other thing about good writing is that writing for a whole community does a lot more to promote good writing than writing for a single teacher. No one wants to communicate poorly in front of a large group. But disappointing a teacher is more palatable.
So my nine-year-old has a cello teacher who won a big prize, and in preparation for the awards ceremony he received a request to write a bit about why he likes her as a teacher.
I knew that he would write differently if he had to type or if he just had to dictate. So I let him dictate and I typed. I’m showing you what he wrote, unedited, because I’m so relieved that it turns out, he writes well:
I like Gilda as a teacher because she always greets me with a nice voice. She always has something new to teach me in the lesson. It never gets dull with her. Well, it sometimes does, but that always happens.
Something that I really really like about Gilda is that she’ll never discourage me. The nice voice that I’m talking about is not “Hi Z how are you?” but it’s encouragement. Like “Great job on that. But here’s something you need to work on.”
Another thing I like most about Gilda is the rewards that I get from getting taught by her. There are four rewards that I get.
1. Friends and best friends
2. Treats. At the end of the lesson I always get a treat. Sometimes I don’t take it though because my mom yells at me and says I can’t eat candy because I’ll get a sugar crash.
3. Performing. This is one of my favorite things to do. I get to learn and experience people in chamber. I get to perform a hard piece in solo. And I get to play in orchestra. Although in orchestra I just sit in the back behind all the big kids and don’t really play.
4. Experience. I get to experience stuff many kids don’t get to experience and that makes me feel very very lucky. Because I am a very emotional person I feel lots of things when I perform. It depends on what kind of piece it is, whether it’s sad or happy or another emotion. Gilda is like a gate to open up my emotions and set them free from inside my body.