Reclaiming Our Teacher Voice: How Staff Writing Can Combat Demoralization

Reclaiming Our Teacher Voice: How Staff Writing Can Combat Demoralization

My identity web from the Paint Chip Identity activity.

According to recent research from the University of Pennsylvania, 40-50% of teachers will leave the classroom within the first five years of teaching.   It’s estimated teacher turnover can cost upward of $7 billion dollars.  This is serious, folks.  Unfortunately, most of our legislators care about standardized testing mandates more than quality teaching.  Many of our community members think that we care more about June, July and August (HA HA HA – I WISH) than we do Jose, Brianna and Jacob.


My paint chip brainstorming from the Paint Chip Identity activity.

Since our true allies are currently limited, we need to support ourselves. This is what led me to my inquiry project through the Penn State Lehigh Valley Writing Project’s literacy and leadership fellowship.  If you attended my session on Saturday at the Best Practices, thank you!  It was a joy to share my experience with creating fellowship through writing with a room full of motivated teachers and administrators.  If you weren’t at the conference, please take a look at my PowerPoint and resources.  I bet you can find 20 minutes twice a month to help combat demoralization in your school.

If you are interested in creating a staff writing community and would like some support or a sounding board, please email me at heather harlen at gmail dot com.  If you’ve implemented something like this in your school or have questions for the community,  please post in the comments!


Harlen Leadership Inquiry

Links to Create Into The Morning Activities:

(All activities included time to share in pairs or as a group)

Paint Chip Identities (Make a web of your different identities; pass out paint chips and have participants find one or two that match an identity; tape onto paper and jot down words that relate to the color and identity; rename the color to fit identity.)

A Pep Talk From Kid President To You (We watched this and then wrote pep talks.)

The Testing Camera (We watched this and then drew snapshots of what our classroom looks like when they’re at their best.)


Do Not Touch from Room To Write by Bonni Goldberg.

Room to Write by Bonni Goldberg (We did the Do Not Touch activity. I made sure to personally invite science teachers since their observation skills would add something special to this particular session.)

The Observation Deck by Naomi Epel (We picked random cards and used them as springboards for writing.  Easy!)

Archetype Cards by Caroline Myss  (Again, we picked random cards and used them as springboards for writing.  So easy an the artwork on each card is beautiful. You can also read about how I use them in my fiction writing here.)

Finally, don’t forget to acknowledge participants’ involvement.  Make ’em feel special for writing with you, for taking this chance, for being a risk-taker, for being a teacher who writes.  A little note in a mailbox goes a long way.


I use these to compliment colleagues who attend our faculty writing activities.


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