For eleven summers groups of Elementary, Secondary and Cegep teachers have come together to form writing communities as part of the Linda Rief Writing Workshop sponsored by LCEEQ. These writers explored ways to promote authentic writing in the classroom by immersing themselves in the writing process. During a five-day intensive session, Linda lead participants from “quick writes”, rough drafts, and through rewrites while offering both individual coaching and peer editing, to the creation of a final piece. On the last day of each session the authors gathered to share their chosen piece with the group and then submitted a final draft which was compiled into a souvenir publication for distribution to the group. Responses to the evaluations following each session were always incredibly positive. Participants walked away from the workshop with a better understanding of themselves as writers, and how they could use some newly acquired understanding and strategies to help their students be better writers.
The chain of successful workshops was broken in Summer 2020 since those registered were not allowed to come together as a result of COVID-19. Fortunately, the story does not end there! Graduates of the previous eleven summers were challenged to consider writing a piece related to their COVID-19 experiences, or on any other topic of interest given that choice is a critical element of successful writing. Linda Rief presented two webinars in which she shared some COVID related poetry which served as “quick writes” to start the writing juices flowing. She also provided some constructive feedback in a peer editing session for those who opted for such. It was a writing workshop at a distance!
Linda Rief shared her thoughts about her experiences with the Quebec educators and why she believes these workshops are important:
“A highlight of my summer has always been working with the teachers in Quebec on their writing and the implications for their classrooms. When the pandemic put a halt to everything, but especially this week of writing, it was truly a disappointment. It is always magical to see the growth and confidence as writers, and enthusiasm for writing (and art) that develop in just five days.
Writing and drawing have taken on even more importance during this health crisis and time of chaos and confusion. They allow us to breathe—to think through our feelings, our beliefs, our concerns, and our imaginings during this historic time. Writing and drawing give me voice—so I can see what I am noticing, wondering, thinking.
I am in awe of how hard classroom teachers are working to keep kids engaged and enthusiastic about learning, especially on-line. If I were still in the classroom (virtually), I would be thinking “less is more,” but knowing that writing, reading and drawing MUST remain central to all we do. They give us voice, and give us joy. I miss those voices from all those summers, but hold onto the hope that we will be able to gather again to hear and see all of those voices enrich a community of writers and artists, for ourselves and for the kids we teach, and from whom we constantly learn even more.”
Included in this article are samples of the writing that was produced in this somewhat unique August 2020 experience. The authors share their efforts with you in the hope that you, too, may choose writing as a means of dealing with these unprecedented times that we are living through.
The Year Death Didn’t Take Me by Negar Banaka
Waiting for the Perfect Boat by Colleen Burnett
sometimes being old by Aynsley Devine
This Is Not About COVID by Jakky Foster
Home by Georgia Gotsis
COVID-19 Graphic by Linda Rief
On Heeding the Call by Susan Tutt