So after writing my post last night, I decided to do something today that I'm really hoping maybe will bring about a change in our workshops. I gathered my students together this morning and opened my concerns to them.
It dawned on me last night that I really can't take everything onto my shoulders. If I say my goal is to have a community of writers (which IS what I want), then I have to keep the community involved. Through my years of teaching through workshops, I've learned part of the success of reading and writing workshop is from letting go of control — i.e. allowing students make their own decisions about what they're writing, what books they're choosing to read, etc. With so many different genres and ideas going at once, I have surrender some control and let my students be responsible, otherwise it's not a true workshop atmosphere.
Therefore, when I considered the problems that have kept me away from conferencing recently, it dawned on me that I have to surrender some control there too, and in this case, let my students become problem solvers along with me. So, that's exactly what I did today.
I opened the floor and asked them to name some of the things that weren't working for them as writers in writing workshop, and I got some good responses! I had one who talked about how it was hard to write when other students would come up and want to talk/conference. Another who talked about how it was hard for him and a peer to conference when other students in nearby conference corners were goofing around. In fact, any of the issues they brought up were the exact kind of problems that I've been spending so much time policing!
So then after naming the problems, we took some more time to talk about solutions. They developed an idea on their own of creating "do not disturb signs" for themselves, when they don't want disturbed by peers for peer conferences. We talked about aiming to limit conference times to 5 minutes or less to leave peer conference areas more accessible for all. And overall, I just left today's mini-lesson feeling much more optimistic about 2nd quarter. I saw through our discussion evidence that many of my students are taking things seriously as writers — they GET it! And although it's not all of them yet, it does refresh my hope that good things are going to come.
Today our independent writing time wasn't perfect (in fact, I doubt "perfect" is even possible), but for the first time in a long while, the majority of my time was spent conferencing vs. policing — and that was a *very* good feeling!