Civically-Engaged Teacher as Writer Teaching Writing Try This

Step Three: Taking Your Writing Public – Extending the Reach of Your Writing

After you complete Step 1: Getting Started Writing about Topics that  Matter, and Step Two: Bringing Play and Creativity and Your Writing Practice, this next step will allow you to make your writing more public and extend the reach of your ideas.

At the Chicago Area Writing Project we focused our efforts on issues of civic engagement. Our writers published in EdWeek, California Educator, National Public Radio, and Chalkbeat Chicago. We raised our voices on issues that touch all of us both personally and professionally. This section will help you get started thinking about taking your writing public, with a specific focus on OpEd writing. 

Be inspired by this interview from WBEZ, Chicago’s public radio station featuring CAWP teacher Brady Gunnick

Context and Background:

Join the Chicago Area Writing Project for a chat with Carol Jago called “When Teachers Write”. This meeting took place in August, 2022, and is a wonderful introduction to how and why to publish your writing. Before watching, please read this article by Mike Rose. We reference it throughout the course of Carol’s talk.


Part I: Sharing Our Stories

Activity: Let’s build on the writing exercises from the previous sections of this post, and start to write more deeply. As we know, every piece of compelling writing tells a story. The Chicago Area Writing Project worked on the writing project below as we continued to develop our public-facing writing.

Supplies: Writing utensil and paper or a computer document such as a Google Doc.

Time Needed: About 60 minutes


  1. What are the best ways to write for civic engagement?
  2. Once you decide on a story to tell, home in on a singular part of it.
  3. Editing
  4. Final Touches

Step 1: What are the best ways to write for civic engagement?

Remember the example Carol Jago shared with us, written by Mike Rose:

Two men are installing a washer and dryer into a narrow space behind folding doors in my kitchen. Between them there is ongoing verbal and nonverbal communication to coordinate the lift, negotiate the tight fit, and move in rhythm with each other. They have to be quick—mine is the first of 15 deliveries—yet methodical and careful to avoid damaging the washer and dryer or injuring themselves. All the while, they are weighing options—how do they get these damned machines into this cramped space—and solving problems, the big one emerging when it becomes clear that the dryer doesn’t match up with my gas outlet. As they are finishing up, I compliment them on the speed and skill of the installation. They thank me, and one of them walks over a few steps wiping his hands and says it is rare that customers talk to them this way. “They treat us like mules,” he says

Here’s another example from Mike Rose. This one is about his mother, a waitress at a diner.

Rosie took customers’ orders, pencil poised over pad, while fielding questions about the food. She walked full tilt through the room with plates stretching up her left arm and two cups of coffee somehow cradled in her right hand. She stood at a table or booth and removed a plate for this person, another for that person, then another, remembering who had the hamburger, who had the fried shrimp, almost always getting it right. She would haggle with the cook about a returned order and rush by us, saying, He gave me lip, but I got him. She’d take a minute to flop down in the booth next to my father. I’m all in, she’d say, and whisper something about a customer. Gripping the outer edge of the table with one hand, she’d watch the room and note, in the flow of our conversation, who needed a refill, whose order was taking longer to prepare than it should, who was finishing up. 

Step 2: Once you decide on a story to tell, home in on a singular part of it.

Prompt: What is a ‘small’ moment from your story that you could write into to truly express your classroom and/or teaching experience? What about Mike Rose’s (beautiful) writing can you imitate? Begin to draft your moment.

Step 3: Editing

Edit with someone who cares about you. In CAWP, that’s everybody. We broke into meeting rooms to share our drafts. You can employ someone in your house, a sympathetic relative, or interested co-worker. After reading a draft, editors should offer one thing they love and one question they have. (Along with any other constructive ideas, of course.)

Step 4: Final Touches

Put the final touches on your small moment. Congratulations! You have a story to add to writing currently underway – or you have the beginning of a brand new project!

Part 2: Sharing Our Stories

Activity: Your writing is coming along and getting close to finished. Now what do you do? How do you get your work into public-facing outlets? We’ve included two resources below – one that focuses on OpEd writing, another to guide you toward scholarly journals. Of course, these are not your only options. Civically engaged writing can take almost any form.

Supplies: Writing utensil and paper or a computer document such as a Google Doc.

Time Needed: About 60 minutes


  • The Op-Ed Project: A community of thought leaders, journalists, commentary writers and activists who proactively share our skills, knowledge and connections across color, creed, class, age, ability, gender, orientation, and beyond. Through our programs we elevate the ideas and knowledge of underrepresented expert voices, including women, and to accelerate solutions to the world’s biggest problems–problems that cannot be solved justly or sustainably without a diversity of voices, expertise, experience and identity.
  • Our Reflections on Writing for Publication” by Rebecca Ballenger, Sandy Kaser, Gloria Kauffman, Jean Shroeder, and Kathy G. Short from Writing for Language Arts 
This post is part of the Teachers Writing for Civic Engagement collection.