The Writing Coach By Suzanne G. Beyer

“How to get published,” read the course title in the community college brochure. At 57, I’d always loved writing but never considered selling my essays. I learned a lot from the course, but my publishing “career” would have to be put on hold.

Last August, the secretary of our local elementary school died tragically in a small plane accident. I felt a need to do something in order to help the school community. Knowing my talents lay in writing, I approached the grief-stricken principal.

“I’ll write a memorial for the beloved Mrs. Henderson and staff profiles for all the new teachers,” I proposed. In this way, we could honor our friend, and at the same time reassure the families that our school would remain strong. Having written student profiles for a technical college, I knew I could create a worthy tribute.

The principal built on my idea suggesting, “We’ll have the fourth graders write the profiles for the entire staff. This not only aligns with district writing requirements, but will also honor the dedicated staff of our school and Mrs. Henderson.”

I taught the students how to conduct interviews, write a draft, and ultimately create a final copy for publication in the school newspaper.

This project proved a success, with the students eager to become published authors. Nonetheless, I felt disappointed it was a volunteer position. However, what I thought would be a personal step backwards, resulted in a giant leap forwards.

I enjoyed being back in the school atmosphere, so I concocted a plan to stay. I carefully researched grant money given to the school for special projects and submitted my proposal to create a new “paid” position – “Writing Coach.”

Fifth grade teachers targeted those students who had barely missed state writing standards, for my class. It would be my job to boost their writing skills to pass the state test. But, more importantly, to let them know how much fun writing can be.

“Good morning. I’m Coach Beyer,” I greeted the eight blurry eyed students entering my before-school writing class. As we sat in a semi circle munching apple slices, I handed each student a small yellow pad and pencil. “Can we keep these?” asked one student. “You may keep the pads but bring them to this class each day,” I explained. They also liked my idea to scatter many yellow pads throughout the house to catch all their great ideas. We began each class by thinking out loud on a topic that I’d chosen that day.

“Think about your own personal experiences,” I’d remind them. “And write about the puddle in front of you, not the entire rainstorm,” I explained. “We writers also want to grab our readers’ attention right away. We don’t want them to fall asleep.”

My success comes from not only the monthly paycheck, but also from the many young friends I’ve made. I benefit, too, from getting reacquainted with my daughters’ elementary school teachers, which provides a fun, social change from the isolation of sitting at my home computer. And not to be underestimated…teaching this writing class has produced some very funny articles for publication.

Know that there is grant money “out there”. Talk to your school district, look in the newspaper, inquire with your community service organizations or religious groups, and search on-line.

Our school recently received the fifth grade writing test scores for the 20 elementary schools in the district. How did we place? Fourth! Now to prepare the next group for their, hopefully, life-long writing journey and of course, “ace-ing” the test.

Suzanne G. Beyer is the Writing Coach at Canyon Creek Elementary, Bothell, WA, and a ghost writer for Lake Washington Technical College in Kirkland, WA. Her parenting and college-related articles have appeared in N.W. Primetime News, College Bound, NW Baby & Child, Eastside Journal newspaper, Chalkdust on-line magazine, and Coastlines, and the U.C. Santa Barbara alumni magazine.

To learn more about grants and grant writing, see: