The Mindful Writing Workshop: Teaching in the Age of Stress and Trauma
“Trauma-informed writing workshop is a method that builds both engagement and the student’s sense of self-efficacy—it can restore and grow both the desire and capacity to learn.”
Today’s youth are growing up in an age of stress and trauma, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the classroom. Absenteeism, emotional distraction, passivity, and unresponsiveness are all signs of children in need. Thankfully, it turns out that the workshop classroom, with limited but essential tuning, can be just the environment students in the grip of trauma need to become comfortable in themselves and break through into active learning.
In The Mindful Writing Workshop: Teaching in the Age of Stress and Trauma, Professor Richard Koch offers clear, comprehensive, guided lessons that help teachers gain the insight necessary to adapt their instruction of writing to incorporate restorative and healing practices—practices that can improve the quality of learning and writing for all learners.
Accessible, straightforward, and empowering, the approaches presented in The Mindful Writing Workshop will help previously indifferent or distracted students become engaged, increase their effort, deepen their resilience, and soon raise the quality of their writing, all while guiding teachers in creating a positive, collaborative, “doing” classroom.
Richard Koch on why he wrote The Mindful Writing Workshop
Through my years of involvement with the National Writing Project I had seen that writing workshop skillfully done was by far the most powerful method for helping students become quality writers. And, in my teaching I had developed ways to incorporate healing and restorative practices into workshop. However, I also saw two issues often holding teachers back—one they were conscious of and one that often they were not conscious of.
The obstacle that teachers often realized they faced was not being sure what craft topics to teach and how best to construct an effective lesson.
The second obstacle, which I noticed many teachers were unaware of, was that, when students responded to lessons with confusion and imperfect writing, many teachers responded with correction accompanied by negative judgment. Language like “Why can’t you follow instructions?” or, “This is rambly and disorganized,” or, “Your spelling and commas are not fixed yet!” was common in many classrooms. Negative remarks or correction in response to drafts do not make students more correct. Instead, they make students reluctant to write or to share their writing. I knew there were protocols for response that could encourage students forward. Protocols that began “I find this the most interesting part of your writing so far.” And continued, “I am curious about . . .”
The steps of workshop must be interactive and predictable to reach students who have experienced trauma. And responses to students living with trauma need to communicate safety. I felt I could offer a guide to key craft issues, and to practical steps for each lesson. And, more importantly, I felt I could guide teachers away from destructive judgmental talk and toward a positive coaching stance. And here is that book. I wish you teaching and learning success in the joyful and authentic classrooms this book can help you and your colleagues to establish!
"The Mindful Writing Workshop reminds me of the beloved community that we all must strive to create. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of working alongside Dr. Koch like I have, the book is very much like having a coach walk you through each step of the process. Implementing the tips and daily practices have changed the way our classroom functions, even in a virtual environment. It is a gentle reminder to re-ignite the passion for learning by making connections and healing our inner dragons while writing."
– Erin Dulak - Roosevelt Elementary, Pittsburgh
"In The Mindful Writing Workshop, Dr. Richard Koch offers practical and creative writing lessons that speak to the heartbreak and healing that every human experiences. His craft lessons, trauma-informed teaching tips and methodological grounding in natural and ancient philosophies are woven together masterfully. . . . This is the book that EVERY teacher in America needs right now as we summon the courage that we'll need to enact the radical and restorative love essential to educational reformation.
I have used Dr. Koch’s "Life Maps" lesson to engage my middle school students in writing personal nonfiction narratives; not only did it set a framework for their writing, but it allowed me to sow seeds of trust and honesty with my students."
– Colleen Geiger - Westinghouse High School, Pittsburgh