Thieves. Everywhere.

(A favorite family phrase.)

Teachers are notorious for stealing: materials, ideas, and lesson plans.  We do this partially because we aren't really in a position to steal anything else.  Our office supplies are carefully rationed (one of my friends teaches in a public school, and they're allowed one box of paper per semester; when it's gone, it's gone) or not worth using outside of the classroom (wet-erase transparency markers, anyone?)

But we also share freely.  One of the best things about teaching, especially classroom teaching, is that there's very little competition.  I'm sure it exists somewhere, probably in uppity private schools where teachers compete for high scores and accolades.  But at my school, we give away everything.  We want our colleagues to be successful, because their students are our students, and if one of us is able to ignite a love for learning, everyone will be warmed by its flame.  I'm so grateful when I hear another English teacher giving SAT writing prompts that I photocopy my handouts for him; when I hear about another teacher's success with a difficult text, I ask to sit in on her class so I can learn from her.

Again, today, I stole my professor's assignment and gave it to my Creative Writing class.  It began with an easy, fun brainstorming activity: list all of the things you've written in the last week, from mundane to esoteric.  They enjoyed this part; girls love any sort of activity that asks them about their own habits or opinions.  Then I asked them to determine the purpose of each form of writing: you might write a to-do list to clarify and articulate your priorities and to ensure you don't forget anything, but you write notes in your book because you're reacting to the text and making it your own. (Or because your teacher will grade you on how many notes you took.)  You sign a receipt to prove that you're you.  You text a friend partly because you want to know where she was during swim practice, but partly (and they admitted this!) because it's less personal than a phone call, which would require more effort and a certain degree of responsibility; a text is just a glorified form of a jab in the side, which can be returned immediately or simply ignored until there's time to respond.

Then we started to think about these forms of communication.  How can we use them to write about ourselves and the world around us?  The ostensible purpose was to come up with some prompts for student submissions to our arts magazine, but they had some interesting reflections along the way.  One girl took the concept of "signature" and talked about how personal it was, and how often it reflected something about you less deliberately than your choice of clothing or hairstyle.  Another confessed that she wrote multiple drafts of her blog posts partly because she wanted certain people to read it, but partly because she knew people might not. It had a chance of being her own writing, "for myself," but there was always the possibility someone would read it -- someone close to her, or maybe someone unexpected.

Hearing this, I was ashamed.  She clearly understood her motives and insecurities a lot better than I knew mine.  I've had this blog for several weeks and have been writing almost daily, so why haven't I told anyone (beyond a handful of close friends) that it exists?  I have to admit it's been fun writing with complete freedom and no response or repercussions, but that's not why I'm here.  I'm here to promote the theft of ideas and thoughts, so that we can all teach and learn more and better with the gift of every new day.  And I guess if I'm promoting it, then it's not really stealing at all.