Sleepless

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I wake up in the middle of the night, startled by sounds from a dream I can’t remember.

I turn to my husband. He’s sound asleep.

I go to my son’s room. He’s awake. Reading. Did you hear that? I ask. But he hasn’t heard anything because it was all in my dream.

Go to sleep, I tell him as I walk back to my bedroom.

Go to sleep, I tell myself.

I climb into bed and try to fall asleep again. Instead, I toss and turn. The deep sleep I crave eludes me.

I shake my husband awake. Did you hear that? I ask. No, he mumbles and tries to fall asleep again.

In the morning, we stumble out of bed. Sleep deprived. We get ready for the day. In the dark.

My day at school goes well. Coffee helps. A virtual math professional learning session keeps me on my toes. (It was that good.) When I return to my class, I feel surprisingly refreshed.

When I get home I shower off the day and go downstairs to decompress before dinner. And that’s when the full force of the previous night’s sleep interruption hits me.

I skip dinner and go to bed.

Can’t keep doing this, I tell myself as I take calming breaths.

Can’t keep doing this.

Cross posted to The Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge

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A Sentence a Day

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I reclaimed a writing practice a couple of days ago.

I didn’t invent it, but I am adapting it.

I call it sentence-a-day.

I first heard of sentence-a-day from a professor in one of my graduate classes. He suggested that we get into the practice of writing a sentence every day about anything that came to mind about each student. He told us, or maybe I realized soon after, that it is those students we can’t recall at the end of the day that need our attention.

During a recent #Time2Write writing group, I mentioned that I often tell my students, especially the undeclared writers, that if they wrote just one line or one sentence every day, they’d have 365 lines or sentences by the end of one year. (I don’t remember who said this, but it really resonated with me. I share it with my students in the hopes that they will realize the impact of writing something. Anything. Every day.

365 lines is not nothing.

365 lines is something.

I tell my students this because I want them to realize that writing is cumulative. Writing happens one word, one sentence, one line at a time, and they can do it. And, one well-crafted sentence is worth more than a series of loosely connected sentences.

I tell them this because I want them to know that while they may feel intimidated by the thought of writing an entire piece from beginning to end, right now, they can still write something that is meaningful and memorable.

So, back to my writing practice…

When I talked about this in my writing group, a few people said that they do just that – one sentence a day – and they’ve been doing this for several years. A sentence a day about anything they want to remember. They write to remember moments that may get lost unless they are written down. And, isn’t that one of the powerful reasons for writing at all? To remember? To record a sliver of life? And, isn’t that the point of the weekly Slice of Life Challenge?

OK. I’ll try it, I said.

So, I have written on two nights.

The first night was easy.

But on the second night I noticed a tendency to write something negative about my day.

Hmm, I said.

Those are not the things I want to remember, at least not in my one line/one sentence a day notebook.

I want to remember funny things, brave things, beautiful things, joyful things about my day.

I want to look back to remember what I was feeling and experiencing during this time.

I want to smile. I want to chuckle. I want to nod my head and say: that is a good memory.

Cross posted to The Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Change

Recently I sat down to write one 6-word memoir about change, which resulted in many 6-word memoirs. (Thanks to @JenLaffin for this #TeachWriteTober writing spark.) What follows is my writing trajectory for this writing challenge, which read like this: Write a 6-word memoir about change. The noun or the verb.

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Full disclosure: Change and I have a very complicated relationship.

If you could take a peak at my notebook, you may notice that some of the 6-word memoirs about change that I attempted were more than 6 words long and others were less than 6 words. I left some 6-word memoirs dangling in the hopes that I could come up with something pithy and clever later. Most of the ones shared below reflect my difficulties coming to terms with change; those reveal my true feelings about change.

Change is not for the weak.

It takes courage to confront change.

Change is constant and always there.

I change my thinking through reflection.

My thinking changes when I reflect.

I change my actions every day.

Change and me – we are complicated.

Change and me: an unlikely couple.

Embrace change because it’s coming…NOW!

My relationship with change is evolving.

I don’t like change – that’s it.

Change and I don’t get along.

I don’t do well with change.

Be ready to change unproductive habits.

What is change, but life itself.

Cross posted to The Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge.

An exercise to focus on happiness

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Thirty things that are making me happy right now. Written in no particular order of importance.

(1) FaceTiming with my oldest daughter so I could see and talk to my granddaughters, even if for a short while.

(2) Coming home and being greeted by my dog, Osa, who wags her tail and shakes her body in excitement.

(3) Having time to reflect about the past week in my journal.

(4) Login into the #TimetoWrite writing group sessions every week.

(5) Reading a really, really good book and looking forward to the next one.

(6) Watching The Morning Show with my husband.

(7) Having time to review student work in math and leaving a comment on their papers.

(8) Eating raspberries!

(9) An unexpected visit by my youngest daughter and her husband.

(10) Taking the time to read over resources, lessons and documents that I am responsible for or want to use in my teaching.

(11) Going to breakfast at a favourite local restaurant.

(12) Clear, blue skies and a bright sunny day.

(13) Finally getting snow tires for our car.

(14) Getting the coffee just right this morning; it has been a while.

(15) My new electric pencil sharpener. (No judging. LOL!)

(16) Stopping at a suspenseful part during the class read aloud and having them beg for me to keep reading; I don’t of course!

(17) Writing and reading again after a long, dry spell.

(18) Making plans for our family Christmas gathering.

(19) Keeping the kitchen clean and tidy.

(20) Keeping up with my daily self-care routines.

(21) Staying out of Twitter wars.

(22) Discovering that if I set my tweets to only people who I follow can respond I get more and better interactions on social media.

(23) Keeping up with my Goodreads reading challenge (still behind, but slowly catching up).

(24) Recognizing that practicing emotional intelligence can have a positive impact on my life.

(25) Reclaiming my teacher identity without drowning in the minutiae of all the things.

(26) Being fully vaccinated and focusing on my physical and mental health.

(27) Drinking more water.

(28) Remembering to suspend judgement long enough to listen to others in order to understand. This is true whether it refers to family members, students or colleagues.

(29) Remembering to not be hard on myself, but to be kind instead. Always hard to do, but so necessary for mental wellbeing!

(30) Making time to reflect about my teaching so that I can plan with the strengths and best interests of my students in mind.

Cross posted to The Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Reflections from a Teacher-Writer

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As part of #TeachWritetober, @laffinteach shared the following writing spark: create a list of all the things that you’ve learned about teaching writing from being a writer yourself.

Here’s my list (at the moment).

–Be patient with yourself; it takes time to get your writing to sound just right. Not perfect, but just right.

–When you write on a regular basis, you will be able to find ideas that matter to you.

–Some days you may draw a blank and not have anything to write about; that’s OK. On those days, read what you’ve already written or do something else. Remember that life provides experiences to nourish your writing.

–The first draft is probably not going to be very good. Write it anyway because writing something is better than not writing anything.

–Writing is really about revising.

–Writing is thinking. I never know where my writing is going to end up. What I do know is that the act of writing takes me where I need to go.

–Writing can be scary. Write anyway.

–You are the primary audience for your writing. If you find yourself writing for someone else first, then stop writing.

–Writing is joyful. If it becomes a chore, then take a break. Do something else before returning to your writing.

–Writers must also be readers. Read the kind of writing that you want to write; it will strengthen your own writing.

–Writing is therapeutic.

–It takes time to develop a writing habit.

–Challenges or sparks sometimes help keep your writing going. Use them on those days when you feel stuck.

–A community of writers is the BOMB! It keeps you going. It supports you. It makes you laugh. It will get you through the hard, and sometimes, lonely days of writing. It is therapeutic.

–Honest feedback from people you trust helps you become a better writer.

–It’s not necessary to share everything you write with others.

What have you learned about teaching writing because you are a writer yourself? Share your ideas in the comments below.

Cross posted to The Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Gradually Reclaiming My Joy in Teaching

I just finished the first round of parent-teacher conferences for this year.

They went really well. For the most part, families and children are happy at school and the children are excited about the activities I am inviting them to engage in.

An increased or new-found interest in reading and writing were high on the list, which always warms my heart as that is important to me as a teacher: we read and write all across the day as well as during workshop times.

The fact that all of the conferences were so positive has given me the energy I need to push ahead through, what has so far been, the most exhausting and challenging year I’ve ever experienced as an educator. Seeing my students’ happy faces, sans masks, was a treat in itself. It filled me with joy and reminded me why I do this job in the first place.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving in Canada. It’s a time to reflect on everything we’re grateful for and, for teachers, to rest and spend time with family. But it is also a time for me to re-energize, reflect and plan ahead.

Where a few weeks ago I was feeling defeated, I am now feeling hopeful as I gradually regain the joy I’ve been missing every time I step inside my classroom.

Cross posted to The Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Challenge.

Snippet #11

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This year I will be teaching grade 3 for the first time EVER! I may have already announced that in another blog post, but every time I say it I get a little anxious. Just a little bit because while I’ve taught every grade from grade 1 to grade 8, I’ve never taught grade 3. Also, there are only two grade 3 classes in my school this year; I haven’t been in a 2-person team in years.

So, this year will be different, but so was last year.

In fact, it has become a cliche to say that last year was a year for the books or some other similar sounding cliche. But it definitely was a year like no other. I’m anticipating it won’t be that much different this year. Fortunately, we are better prepared this year. At least, that is my secret hope.

But this year is the aftermath of last year. The tremor after the earthquake that turns into another tremor and so on.

If you’ve been in education as long as I have you know that every year poses a new set of challenges. Every year requires more of us.

So, like every year, I’m preparing by finding teachers to follow on social media, creating a list of compelling read aloud books to share with students and immersing myself in professional books that will help me be the best teacher I can be to my 27 students.

The big difference for me is that this year I am going to cut out everything that doesn’t add value to my life.

I will prioritize my students.

I will prioritize myself and my family.

That is definitely going to make this a very different year for me.

And. I am SO looking forward to it!

How about you? How will you approach this new school year? What will you prioritize? What will you keep? What will you discard?

Write Even When You Don’t Know What You’re Going to Say

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Tonight I’m having trouble finding words.

I write not knowing where I will end up. I just know I need to start somewhere.

So, I open up a blank page on my WordPress app and start writing.

I take a chance and let the words spill on the page because once I start writing something important will reveal itself to me.

I just have to show up and write.

Even if it’s not very good.

Even if it’s incomplete.

Even if it feels like it’s something better left unsaid.

Because writers need to write every day.

Even when they don’t feel like it. (Especially when they don’t feel like it.)

Still.

We write.

I write.

And I make my writing public.

I write because I must.

I write for my student writers.

I write for myself.

How about you?

Cross posted to The Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Ageism, Education and More

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the topic of ageism. And even though I don’t feel comfortable revealing my age or how I’m currently feeling about the age I am, I need to start.

The irony of this is that I never thought I’d be one of those people who would avoid any talk of their age. I also never thought I’d be afraid to fly or that I would get cancer. But there you have it!

When I was first diagnosed with cancer, it took a long time before I could talk about my diagnosis with friends and family.

As if there was something to be ashamed about.

As if it was my fault that I’d gotten cancer or…gotten older.

Now, how silly is that? Definitely silly, but the feelings and the resulting effects are not silly.

This brings me to the classroom…

Teachers know that students learn at different rates and times. In fact, our students learn in spite of us and they don’t always learn what we’d hoped they would learn. Sometimes they learn a lot more.

And as much as we try to convey the sentiment that we are all unique and valuable, kids still manage to internalize the debilitating idea that they should be learning in the same way as their classmates. And, only those that learn the “average” way (think “young” here) are right or valued or smart.

Our society seems to think that once you reach a certain age you should have achieved certain things or be at a certain level in your chosen profession. For teachers, it’s all about being an administrator of some kind. But some of us either choose not to pursue that path or miss an opportunity somewhere along the way and don’t get “picked” for those roles. Or maybe we’re just not ready, until later, and that’s when societal biases may kick in.

You can probably read into this post that I am struggling, on a personal and professional level, with this issue. I feel like I still have a lot to offer, but that maybe it’s too late.

Intellectually, I know that is not true. Emotionally, I can’t shake the feeling that maybe I’m trying too hard. I don’t want to victimize myself either. Instead I am trying to be proactive by writing about it.

I look forward to reading your thoughts in the comments section below. I will be revisiting this topic in the future.

Taking Time to Create

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I have a little more than three weeks left of summer vacation before I go back to school.

Normally I would be spending most of my summer in a combination of paid and unpaid professional learning activities.

Although I had a few opportunities lined up that I was contemplating engaging in this summer, I quickly realized they weren’t going to happen.

I am too busy enjoying time with family and I’m not ready to dive into anything work-related.

I am realizing that nothing earth shattering will happen if I don’t attend the latest workshop or series of sessions that promise to make me a better _____________ (you can fill in the blank) teacher.

Instead, I’m learning that I’m better off using any down time I have this summer to read and write. To spend time creating rather than consuming. Not that consuming is a bad thing. I love to read what other people are creating, but it’s also important for me to create.

Yesterday I was inspired by a children’s author who recently published her first book. She is in her early ‘70’s. My hat’s off to her.

See here for Gloria Amescua’s heartwarming story. I mention this because I often feel like I’m too late to the party. Or too old. Or everybody has already said what I might want to say. And while I know that this is all related to a very well-heeled sense of imposter syndrome, it’s encouraging to see examples that can feed my soul.

So, this summer is just fine as it is.

Cross posted to The Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge.