#OWL22

Every year I try to come up with one little word for the year.

A word that will guide my passage through a new set of experiences.

A word that will make an impact in my life.

A word that will inspire my creative side.

A word that will make a significant addition to my legacy.

Every year I start out strong. I blog about my #OLW. I talk about it with others on social media or in friend groups. I plan activities around it. I celebrate it. And, then, somewhere around February, I forget about it.

So, I tried having a monthly word instead. And, that worked…for a while. But the truth is that it’s hard for me to maintain a focus on my #OLW all year long, even a monthly word, when so many other things are vying for my attention.

So, why bother?

So, this year I’m going to try something new. Or, maybe just a tweak on what I’ve done before.

For me, simply thinking about how I want to live the coming year and what I want to emphasize in my life, has helped me be more intentional, even if on a subconscious level. It has helped me to set up the year for success. When I’ve forgotten about my word (often!), something has triggered my memory and sparked a moment of reflection to get me back on track or even to discard that word altogether.

Here’s my plan.

First, I will pick my #OLW, at my own pace, by examining previous words or as many as I can remember and/or find in my writing. In other words: I will not rush the process. I will take my time.

Next, I will think about what I said I will leave behind in 2021: fear and negativity.

Then, I will make a list of words that may help me get past my fear and negativity. I will write about these words, so that through my writing I can discover my #OLW2022. This process may take me a couple of weeks, but I am confident it will be worth it in the long run.

Finally, I will publish my chosen #OLW2022 in a blog post and include a list of actions that I can take to achieve the spirit of my #OLW22. This list can also serve as a weekly checklist of sorts to gauge my progress, which is something that has been missing in previous years.

Phew! That feels just right.

More to come!

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

Like Always

We decorated cookies to launch the holiday season, a first for our family of five that has now grown to nine with sons-in-law and granddaughters.

We enjoyed a badly needed spa date, a gift from our children; they know how to give memorable presents.

So we could get ready for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner, like always, though now a bit earlier with small children in the mix.

And watch Pia open her presents Christmas morning, like always, followed later that day by Christmas Day dinner and a book exchange for the kids.

We created memories this year, like always.

And started new ones.

We took Pia to her first big girl mani-pedi followed a couple of days later with a trip to Claire’s for ear piercing.

A trip to the Children’s Museum with a side trip for me and my girls to try on wedding dresses; my youngest is finally going to celebrate her wedding this summer.

And, in the next few days comes the hardest part, like always: saying goodbye until the next time we can see each other.

Everyone will go back to their lives, like always. For me, it’s back to report card writing – my least favourite part of teaching.

And as the New Year approaches, I’ll be thinking of my #OLW22. No clue yet as to what it will be. But for right now, I can only think of how sad I will be tomorrow morning, like always, when my oldest daughter and her family leave for the airport. This will be replayed four days later when we make our way home.

Like always.

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

Trip preparations

Source: Free Picture Library

The alarm goes off at 3:00 am and then again at 3:15. I also set it for 3:30, but I wake up before it can go off again.

I reluctantly unfurl my body from the warmth of the covers and sit up on the edge of the bed. I check the sticky note on my night desk to see what I still need to do to get ready for our trip.

I hurry to the bathroom, brush my teeth and get dressed quickly.

I have less than 20 minutes before I need to reserve an Uber to the airport.

I finish and turn to go downstairs, turning off all the lights on my way there.

I look at my last minute to-do list and cross off items as I complete them. Finally, I toss the sticky note into the recycling bin.

“The Uber is more than 10 minutes away,” he says.

“Get it,” I say.

We do a last minute check of the house while we wait for the Uber to arrive.

Finally, we leave for the airport. Seventeen minutes later, we lug our suitcases to the nearest kiosk. We scan our passports and get in line to hand over our luggage.

There are long lines at security and a slow, meandering line at immigration.

There is a youth hockey team in front of us.

There is a family with young two children behind us.

There is an elderly couple across from us making small talk as they wait for their turn.

Our gate is at the end of the terminal and by the time we get there, it’s time to board.

Deep breath.

Here we go.

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

Book Project

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I am working on a book project.

It’s not the same book project as the last 5 book projects that never got off the ground.

It’s a brand new book project that started taking root in my mind when I was interviewed on the podcast, I Wish I Knew EDU.

I have written several pages in my notebook for this new book project.

I have been going strong.

I have written a lot because I am passionate about what I’m writing.

My energy level is high every time I sit down to write.

And, yet…

Just the other day…I started to doubt myself.

I started to feel like an imposter.

Who am I to write anything that anybody would even consider reading?

What do I have to say that someone else hasn’t already said, and better?

I know. I know.

This is my fight or flight brain doing its job.

This is its way of protecting me.

If I never try, I will never fail. Right?

So, what do I do?

I do the only thing I can do: I keep writing.

I write one word at a time.

I write one sentence and then another one.

I write what I’m itching to say because I must.

I read and reread what I write.

I revise so my ideas are communicated in an interesting and coherent manner.

I repeat to myself what published authors always say, like my own personal mantra: the real act of writing starts during the revision process.

Yes, I know. A writing process isn’t linear. We revise as we write, but the first draft is often just written in stream of consciousness. A dumping of ideas and images on the page. A continuous cacophony of words until there is nothing left to say.

Then, it’s time to do the hard work of re-visioning what was written in a frenzy.

I cringe at the poorly structured sentences, the ordinary words, the lack of clarity and logic in my writing.

I revise – add, take away, substitute, rearrange – trying to get the message just right, or as right as I am able to get it given my current understandings and limitations as a writer.

I keep writing.

I revise in the moment.

I revise later.

I share my writing with other trusted writers.

I wait impatiently for their feedback. Check my email a dozen times in an hour. Check my messages on my phone. Troll on social media. Look at the clock. Tick, tock.

I consider the feedback I get.

I make changes that make sense to me.

I keep writing.

I keep writing.

I keep writing.

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

Making time to share our reading and writing

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Disclaimer: This subject of this post is a work in progress. I look forward to your feedback in the comments.

Currently, I make room in my classroom schedule for writing and reading workshop at least four times a week, each. Technically speaking, that would be approximately one hour of reading and writing every day. Some days it adds up to a little more than that and on other days, it’s a little less. But who’s counting? My students are counting! They constantly remind me if our writing time is delayed because it happens at the end of the day and we all know how rushed the end of the day can get.

Both workshop times include silent writing and reading, mini lessons as needed and appropriate, and a sharing time to close the workshop. Reading and writing workshop is a mix of writing and reading invitations and student initiated projects. (Currently, some student partnerships are working on creating posters to raise awareness about littering and hanging them up around the school.)

Sharing books and writing is something my students look forward to and sometimes doesn’t happen because we run out of time. So, based on student suggestions, we have created a schedule that we started testing last week.

On three days a week in writing workshop, students sit, stand or lie around the room to share their writing either in pairs or small groups. On Tuesdays, three students share to the whole class. We throw confetti (shout out to my Time2Write teacher writing group) to celebrate the writer.

Once a week, students join an impromptu self-selected book group to share about their reading. These books groups are based on what students are reading on that day, though it’s perfectly OK to join another group even if your reading on that day doesn’t match the category of any particular group.

Let me explain.

After silent reading time on Thursdays, students who are reading the same book, same series, same author, same type or genre of book, for example, get together for 10 – 15 minutes to talk about their book. If a child can’t find a group that fits that day’s book, they join a group with others whose book on that day also does not fit within any other group.

When problems arise with scheduling, assignments, expectations and many other classroom structures, tasks and routines, and I can’t figure it out on my own, and even when I can, I ask my students what they think. More often than not, their ideas and solutions are brilliant.

And, I am grateful that this is bringing me joy despite the noise all around me.

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

Making Meaning

Full disclosure: Get ready for a rant.

Reading and writing are about communicating ideas, emotions, experiences, opinions and more.

The act of reading is all about making meaning.

We make meaning from the words on the page, the images, the graphs, the titles, the photographs, the pictures and from what we already know about and are learning from the text.

The text is anything that can convey meaning – a painting, a book, a movie, a documentary, a comic, a meme, etc.

When we read we work to understand what someone else wrote, but we may never get it exactly as the writer intended and we may even miss the point altogether.

When we write we are communicating ideas to others in a way that is as interesting and as clearly as possible, so that we aren’t completely misunderstood.

However, because writers can’t fully anticipate how readers will approach their writing, we look for others to read our drafts and to help us see our writing with new eyes.

I write this because I am tired of isolated word calling tests and even more tired of fixes for kids who don’t do well on those isolated word calling tests.

I write this because sometimes it feels as if I’ve lost my mind.

I also write this because i know I haven’t lost my mind. It’s those people over there who have no clue what it means to teach a child to read, but who somehow feel entitled to tell teachers how to do it. And their solution is to make language unnatural by breaking it up into tiny, tiny pieces.

This is the worst thing anyone can do to a child.

It stifles their imagination.

It thwarts their thirst for more.

It kills the spirit.

In this kind of environment, we end up raising non readers.

We need to reclaim and reaffirm the JOY of reading. And, in my humble opinion, we need kids like my grade 3 students who when asked, “What is reading?” they respond with: “Reading is fun. Reading is awesome.”

We need kids who read to expand their world so they can become better human beings tomorrow than they were today.

End of rant.

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

Sleepless

Source: Free Media Library

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.

Photo by Nothing Ahead on Pexels.com

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.