The Role of the Teacher

Topic Progress:

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

–Ranier Maria Rilke


Recently I hosted an hour-long discussion about Story Workshop, where a participant new to the structure of Story Workshop asked, “Why bother? Why not just stick with writer’s workshop?” I loved that she asked that question! It’s questions like these that support me to reflect on the beliefs and values I hold and that encourage me to articulate my own intentions and make visible the learning I see in the children I work with. It’s questions like these that I am continuously asking myself. And it’s questions like these that lie at the heart of the role of the teacher in Story Workshop.

You can’t talk about the role of the teacher in Story Workshop without talking about questions. The role of the teacher has to do first and foremost with asking questions. I’m talking about the kinds of questions that do not have immediate answers; the kinds of questions you have to live; the kinds of questions that you, the teacher, are genuinely curious about. Taking the time to make our own questions visible allows us to engage in reflection over time. This kind of research is not the kind you do in a lab, where you can control all variables, but the messy, classroom kind that follows a cycle of asking questions, observing, testing out, reflecting, and then starting again. Story Workshop doesn’t happen without asking questions we are genuinely curious about and our reflections on what we see in action. In fact, it was this kind of questioning and reflecting that Story Workshop grew from.

What is the relationship between literacy and the arts?

This one question has sparked years of research and has led to many, many more questions! These unanswerable questions support us to define and clarify our own beliefs as teachers so that we might put those beliefs into action in the classroom.


I’d like to invite you to read a chapter from The Teacher You Want To Be titled Why Beliefs Matter.  In this essay, Heidi Mills explores the impact of our beliefs both on ourselves and our own professional development and growth – as well as on the students we work with.

Why Beliefs Matter, The Teacher You Want To Be

Over the course of this first Module, you’ve had the opportunity to dive into some resources that have influenced my beliefs about children as writers and learners, and that have influenced my practice during Story Workshop. As we finish up this Module and think about Preparing for Story Workshop, I’d like to invite you to take some time to make your own beliefs visible. I have found that when I take the time to make my beliefs visible I am better able to align my practice with those beliefs. In turn, my questions are more likely to become the kinds I want to live.

Reflection challenge for your journal:

Take time articulate your beliefs!

  • You might start following the model from Why Beliefs Matter:  I believe… So I will…
  • Or use this question from the article as a jumping off point: What are the beliefs we want to nurture about content, the learning process, and kids’ identities and sense of agency?”


Here are some other resources that might help spark more thinking about your own beliefs and the role of the teacher:

“Your Image of the Child: Where Teaching Begins” by Loris Malaguzzi

“Teacher As Researcher” by Beverly Johnson

“What Teachers Learn from ‘Kid Watching'” by Richard Van De Weghe

“On the Virtue of Thinking Small” by Thomas Newkirk from The Teacher You Want to Be

Course Discussion