Period 1: Toni-Ann
Period 2: Nina
Period 3: Kristen
Period 4: Juliet
Period 5: James
Period 6: Autumn
That’s the jam-packed schedule of students on a typical day for Samantha Davidson, the new writing coach for Brewster Central Schools. Students are signing up for one-on-one coaching sessions through teacher referrals, but mostly through word of mouth–Tori-Ann told Juliet, who told Autumn.
There is that kind of buzz.
The Writing Coach position is new to the district. Of course, teachers know the importance of giving students feedback throughout the writing process and the importance of having students write authentically. But classroom teachers cannot always meet with each student one-on-one to edit and give feedback on multiple drafts of a writing assignment. Which is why Brewster has created the new position -- Writing Coach – this year. It’s in perfect alignment with Vision 2026, the district’s strategic plan, which aims to inspire students to think critically and be authentic, while nurturing their overall well-being. Deputy Superintendent Michelle Gosh said “we are thrilled that the Board of Education and the community supported this position through the budget. It is aligned with Vision 2026 and the idea that we want to provide students with the skills needed to achieve their version of success, whichever path they choose to pursue and whatever they desire to do.”
It is college application time and Brewster High School seniors have been signing up for sessions with Davidson in droves. They are looking for editing help while writing the personal essays that are part of every application. Students come to see Davidson during a study hall or after school. The setting, which is one-on-one, offers a unique opportunity. They get Davidson’s complete attention for an entire class period, during which she asks questions and reads their narratives closely. It is a collaborative process. For some students, the help is minimal. For others, it means starting over.
Juliet came to Davidson with a personal essay about her love of ceramics. After talking it over, it became clear that the essay did not feel authentic to Juliet. “I hate it! It’s not me!” They brainstormed ideas. Davidson asked Juliet questions: “What makes you unique?” “What are you passionate about?” They had a conversation, and, through that conversation, Juliet came up with the essay she truly wanted to write.
Tori Ann had written two drafts before she came to Davidson. “She read my essay, we collaborated, line by line, changed it–my essay has matured. It was a lost cause! I am happy with it now. It was transformed. It has gone from being a baby to a grown up! I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders!”
Davidson said students tend to underwrite, merely touching the surface of their subject. That’s why she likes to get back to basics -- what do you know, how do you know -- then blend the answers to those questions with the student’s own thoughts. The hope is that students will open themselves up to the writing process–and dig deeper–whether it is for a personal essay or a formal research paper.
Davidson is available to help students in grades 9-12. In addition to writing sessions set up by appointment, she will be going into classrooms to explain the writing process. She has already visited Tom Mullane’s room, Michael Nicastro’s room, and Robert LoAlbo’s room.
Next, she will go into Global History classes, where she will explain how to research and write the Enduring Issue essay for Regents. After that, Davidson said she plans to go into the Science Research classes to assist with writing Abstracts and doing research.
Though application season ends, essay-writing season never really does. It goes on, and, as it goes on, Davidson will be there. For Davidson, who loves to edit and write, the experience is already rewarding–she is learning about her students; it is like therapy. And she’s already having an impact.
Juliet says she enjoyed her experience with. Davidson because “she relieved me of the stress I had over my college essay. She was very helpful and reassuring. I felt like I could easily connect and talk with her. I love how animated and cheerful she is as well. I would give her a 10 out of 10. She’s a cool teacher and a vital resource here at Brewster High School.”
Now that the word is out, students and teachers will need to plan ahead.