Teacher: How can you still be so optimistic, idealistic, and passionate about teaching? You are so lucky.

Me:  There is absolutely no luck involved. I make a point of being inspired by kids and teachers. I choose to collect and share stories of the amazing things that happen in our schools every day.

This is a variation on a conversation I have had many times. It doesn’t mean I am naïve. It means that I believe you find what you are looking for.

Take this week, for instance. I had lunch with a principal, a vice-principal, and two grade 7/8 teachers from a small school with what many would describe as an at-risk population. They shared a story that moved me as a human being, inspired me as a teacher, and found its way to the top of my All-Time Favourite Inspiring Teachers and Students Chart.

The story began with our writing lesson study back in September when the school decided that they were going to explore three questions all year:

  • Who am I?
  • Where am I from?
  • Why am I here?

In Grade 7/8 we decided that one of our goals was for students to understand that humans write to pursue answers to those very questions, to, as Shelley Harwayne (2000) says, “make sense of our green minutes on earth.”

And now, as the year is coming to a close, I learned how two teachers, supported and encouraged by a principal and vice-principal who lead by walking alongside teachers, transformed a group of adolescents into a community of writers and activists.

The first step in becoming a more inspiring teacher or leader is dreaming big, and really thinking about what it is we want students to learn about being in the real world. Tweet this

How did they do this? For me, the short answer is by dreaming big – by really thinking about what it is they want students to learn about being a writer, a reader, indeed, a citizen of the world. And then teaching in ways that convey the power of writing:

  • To help us understand ourselves, others, and the world,
  • To really, really communicate what is in our hearts and minds,
  • And to effect change in the world.

The longer answer is by making a commitment to finding meaningful and authentic reasons for students to write and real audiences to write for. To know your students and their passions, what is going on in the world that will capture their hearts and minds, and your curriculum inside and out.

By gaining this insight, you can help your students channel their own inspiration. So that like the teachers I began this story with, when Senator Murray Sinclair publishes a poem about grieving for the country, your students are ready to write about what and whom they grieve for… and the poems are shared with Justice Sinclair and the Prime Minister.

Or when your students return to school on the Monday following the Humboldt Broncos devastating bus crash, the first words they say are…“We have to DO something. What can we write?” Just as the writers and activists in this Grade 7/8 classroom did.

If you found this story inspiring and thought provoking, you might enjoy these posts too:

Make sure to read more on how to inspire your writers, and channel their inspiration in Making Writing Instruction Work.

Thank you, Lavallee School, for inspiring me as a teacher, a writer, and a collector of stories.


Harwayne, Shelley. 2000. Lifetime Guarantees. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Anne Davies, Sandra Herbst, and Brenda Augusta

Anne Davies, Sandra Herbst, and Brenda Augusta

Anne Davies, Sandra Herbst, and Brenda Augusta are educators, consultants, authors, and presenters who are highly sought after, both locally and globally. Their energy, passion, and expertise have helped teachers, leaders, schools, and systems to move forward with competence and confidence. Learn more about the team here...


Like most education professionals, we have a burning desire to make a difference in the lives of learners. We started as teachers and leaders, but saw the potential to drive greater transformation by creating and sharing methodologies with other educators.

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