August

The month of August is when teachers, in many places but not all, start the back-to-school countdown. If this is you, by this time of the year, you are probably gearing up to meet your new class of students or are participating in professional learning activities planned by your school or jurisdiction. And some, like me, are beginning to realize that the summer is almost over and that maybe we didn’t complete all those plans and goals we had from opening boxes from a recent move (still working on it, but making progress daily) to an intense month of working on a big project (I accomplished a lot more on the work needed to move ahead in my dissertation than I had anticipated). Whatever you did, it’s time to celebrate it.

Now, the stark reality of what being back at school entails is slowly settling in around me. Nevertheless, I am trying to do what my husband suggested when I lamented the end of summer: don’t stress about what’s coming up. Just enjoy the moment now so that you can be in the moment once you go back to work. I think these are wise words and I intend to follow them.

So, over the next few weeks, as my calendar starts to fill up, I will take each event as it comes. I will revel in the moment and follow through on what are becoming joyful routines for me this summer. I will continue to spend 10 minutes in the morning just writing in a stream of consciousness way before checking social media. So far, so good! I am on day #4 of this new plan and it is really helping to clear my mind and to stay away from social media first think in the morning. This morning writing is just what I need to work things out in my mind, to set a plan for the day, to name and explore mixed up feelings.

I know the first couple of weeks back to school, at least, will be an adjustment period for everyone as we move from vacation mode into school mode – continuing with new and old routines, recognizing and adapting to lack of flexible time, reestablishing a sensible sleep pattern. Nevertheless, I aim to take it slowly. To do as much as I can. And, especially to combine significant spurts of head work with exercising, watching another episode from a favorite series or simply talking with my husband.

I know that I tend to write similar posts to this one where I examine my habits, promise to do better and end up in the same place or worse than before. But, for some reason, this summer feels significantly different than others. It’s not that I have got it all figured out, but my level of productivity – reading, writing, exercising, eating better – has got me all fired up to continue these habits once school starts. Of course, I know everything will slow down, but I’m discovering that time is truly a relative construct. Ten minutes seems like nothing, but when you put on a timer (this really works!) and sit down to read or write, it amounts to a lot. These small moments have made a huge difference for me.

So, to those of you who are back at school, here’s wishing you the best year, yet.

To those of you that have already started teaching, enjoy your students; they depend on you.

And, to those who are getting ready to go back, I hope you slow down these last few days rather than rushing through them; you don’t want to miss out on important moments along the way.

And, as for me, I am definitely more than just a little bit excited about going back to school. Bring it on!

Crossposted to Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Tuesday.

 

 

Two Changes for the Fall

At last night’s #TeachWrite monthly chat participants discussed ways to could keep a writing habit going when school starts up again in the fall. I know that for some of you, school has already started, but I’m still in summer mode. A couple of suggestions resonated with me and so I want to discuss them here. By making them public I am hoping that I will be more accountable to myself and my writing.

First, I will write before going to sleep or first thing in the morning. I don’t know about you, but I tend to check social media right before I go to bed and as soon as I wake up.

My phone doubles as an alarm clock.

I have a routine for checking social media. If I don’t have any new notifications on my WhatsApp chats, I immediately open up my personal email. Most days I end up deleting quite a few emails (some subscriptions are difficult to unsubscribe from!), and maybe end up reading just one or two emails, if that many. Typically, the rest of the emails sit in my inbox until I can get to them.

Then, I check FB. I go to my notifications. I read the ones that are immediately interesting and leave the rest for later. I might do a quick scroll to see what shows up on my feed, but not always.

Next, I go to Twitter and I repeat the same routine as with FB.

Finally, I check my university email.

At this point, I am a bit overwhelmed: I’ve filled my head with all the real and fake news that’s on social media and I haven’t even brushed my teeth yet!

So, my new plan is to have a small notebook and a pen on my nightstand. When I wake up in the morning, or right before I go to bed or both, instead of checking social media right away or at all, I will write for at least 10 minutes. Seems simple and clean, but because I’ve tried this before, I know how difficult it is to build a new habit. But I’m willing to give it a try. Starting a new habit may be a challenge, but what’s really difficult is staying with it until it sticks. When you’re in the middle part of developing a habit, it can get boring. The newness has worn off. If I can get past that, then I’ll be OK. I’m counting on my writing buddy and August writing group through #TeachWrite to keep me honest. Hint! Hint!

For as long as I have been doing writing workshop, I have been privy to the power of sharing. Students sharing with each other and the teacher sharing with students. Although I’ve shared my writing with my students on occasion, I have not done it consistently. That is changing this year. I have a student who is asking me to share my writing with him. He is relentless, but in a good way. Yet, I have been putting him off. I know. I know. It goes against everything I believe is important in writing workshop, yet I’m terrified to share my writing. With students and with other adults.

This summer I have committed to share more of my writing with others. To make my writing public. So far, so good. And, I know this step forward will have an as yet unknown but rippling effects on me as a writer.

Bring it on!

Crossposted to Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Tuesday

 

Tuesday Slicing #1/many more – A New Start

I am a perfectionist and a rule follower. I need to know what is expected of me so that I can work within those parameters. Although I may deviate from some expectations or rules, I agonize over my decisions to do so.

You’re probably thinking: OMG! What a combination! Yes, it’s a lethal combination and causes a lot of anxiety when I let both of these sides of me run amok. Let me tell you, this is not a stress-free way to live!

I aim to do better.

This summer I planned to participate in Teachers Write, 100 words a day of summer writing, #cyberPD and so much more. I signed up for online workshops and book studies. I had it all figured out. I would have so much time at my disposal because it was summer. Oh, and I would also keep working on my theses. I think I forgot that part of the reason teachers have summers off is mostly to relax and, yes, to recharge and learn, but in ways that won’t tire us out even before the first day of school comes around.

Taking time off from anything related to school is a valuable pursuit during the summer.

And, you are probably also thinking: she’s crazy! Yep! And, I wouldn’t disagree. As is to be expected, I didn’t complete any of these projects and despite my usual modus operandi (feeling unaccomplished), I’ve decided to let them all go. I’m not going to retell the same old story of failure I continually tell myself when I miss beloved Twitter chats or I don’t participate in every online conversation, even though I’ve read the book, the article, seen the video, etc. Which brings me to an important awareness: it’s not about all the bells and whistles, sometimes even hoops, that are often part and parcel of online teacher professional learning opportunities that are important, although those infinitely enrich me as a teacher…when I am able to do them. What’s important are the take-aways afforded by these varied experiences and, more importantly I think, it’s about what I create as a result because I’ve noticed that I am doing a lot more consuming than producing and that just doesn’t feel right.

Balance – that’s what I crave. And consistency. And, the pleasurable feelings that come from completion and learning.

It is better to commit to a few online activities. To choose wisely. To stick to those commitments over time than it is to try to do it all at once.

So, my project for the month of August is to figure out which of these virtual events I want to continue to pursue and which I am just going to say no to so that I can produce more writing. Create more ideas. And feel successful and accomplished all at once.

That’s why I’m back to Tuesday slicing.

Let the fun begin.

Cross posted to Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Tuesdays

Intentions

Today is Tuesday and typically I would be writing a blog post for the #SOL Tuesday challenge on the Two Writing Teachers blog site. But, over the last few weeks, probably more than that, I haven’t been able to write much of anything…or even read much of anything, for that matter. I have had a partial block as far as reading and writing goes. I consider myself an avid reader and an emerging writer. Actually, the bit about being an emerging writer is so new to me that I even hesitate to say this out loud. So, writing it down is that much easier. I even notice that when I reread this post, I whisper that phrase – emerging writer. Do you hear it? Soft as a the breeze.

So, as part of my trifecta of practices – actually, it’s more like a double trifecta since it’s more like six daily practices that I’m trying to build into solid habits instead of three, which would be enough of a challenge, but you know me, or maybe you don’t but now you will –  to practice self-compassion, I have put daily writing as one of them. I’m trying really hard not to be orthodox about this. Like if I wrote on 750 words this morning, then I’m done with my writing. Or, why didn’t I write on the 750 words site and then wrote somewhere else, like my blog, for example? So, you see where this is heading, right?

I am too rigid. Too much of a rule follower. Too hard on myself.

So, instead of making more goals that I may or may not stick to, I am declaring my intentions. (Hat tip to Angela Stockman.)

I intend to be more kind to myself.

I intent to be more forgiving of myself.

I intend to practice gratitude every day by acknowledging it, writing it down or simply declaring my gratitude to a significant person in my life.

affection-appreciation-art-424517.jpg

I intend to not put myself down, but instead to raise myself up thereby doing the same for everyone around me.

I intend to walk into my classroom and my house with a clean heart, an open mind and a loving heart.

Happy Tuesday Slice of Life everybody. And, thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for hosting this challenge every Tuesday all year!

 

10 minutes of uninterrupted writing

Once a week, on Mondays, my students have writing homework.

They write, anything, for at least 10 minutes without stopping. A parent used the term “uninterrupted writing” in an email message to me earlier this year, and so the phrase has stuck.

10 minutes of uninterrupted writing

child writing pexels-photo-256468

My students keep track of their writing on a sheet of paper. They record what they wrote that night and how it went for them. Comments range from “no one interrupted me” to “I wrote more than I have previously”. Although this is a start, we’ll be working on being more metacognitive over the next few months.

 

Sometimes my students

  • write a letter to someone
  • write the next section of a story they’ve been working on
  • write about their families
  • tell a story about an after school activity
  • make lists.

And, sometimes, they don’t even share their writing with me.

But, when they do, I am often pleasantly surprised and secretly pleased.

Last night two students wrote poems.

The first poem was about getting writer’s block in the middle of writing her poem, and how she overcame it.

The second poem was shorter than the first poem. It rhymed, just like the first poem. It was written on a loose sheet of paper, unlike the first poem. It was about running and walking at the same time.

My students are finding their voices. Slowly. Tentatively.

They are learning to explore their ideas and feelings through their writing. They are discovering, whether or not they know it yet, that writing worth reading isn’t about the extraordinary experiences in life, although it is that too. But, writing worth reading,the kind of writing readers gravitate to, is about the everyday. The mundane. The ordinary.

It’s writing that mirrors all of our stories.

what's your story pexels-photo-261734

If that is my students’ one takeaway from our writing experience this year, that will have been enough.

Crossposted to The Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Challenge

My Daughters are Home

Posted to Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Challenge

The house is full.
My daughters are home.

I still say “home” even though it’s not really home to them anymore.

It’s not the home they grew up in,
not where they lived for 4 years and
10 years when they were little
and before my oldest went off to college.

It’s the home we built after they graduated from college
and they were no longer living with us.

It’s the “home” they come to when they come home.

It’s home because we’re all together,
and together we make it home.

My daughters are home.
They fill up the house.
Every corner is taken with their belongings.
Every table top is cluttered
with books, cameras, and electronic devices.
All the bedrooms are occupied.
The bathrooms look used.

Evidence is everywhere.
It screams, “We’ve been here.
We’re here still.”

They mark the territory.
It becomes theirs.
We welcome them.
And there is balance in the world.
All is right after all.

Until they leave again.

Then, my husband, my son and I readjust,
find our center because it has shifted.
It takes a few days for our routines
to make themselves present again
even as we fight the change
because it means
we’re on our own again.

My daughters are home.

Electrical Storm

This afternoon there was an electrical storm.
Apparently, we’ll be experiencing these more often this month
at the same time that the bad weather starts to diminish.
Hopefully, May will be a better month, for the weather
and for changes I am hoping for.

Winter here has never been like this before.
In fact, we’ve never had an actual weather report before.
The weather here is generally constant in the winter.
Sunny skies, rain in the afternoon, sunny skies after that.
Temperatures hovering between 15 and 20 degrees
with a strong sun in the middle of the day.

But, this winter all we’ve had is
rain, rain, and more rain.
Cold temperatures that linger and linger and linger.

Fortunately, today I worked late as I waited for my son
who was practicing for the school play.
So, I didn’t experience the electrical storms
though I heard the noise but didn’t see the lightning,
if that makes sense.

My husband was at home
and that was a different story.

There was a power surge.
The lights went out.
And, so did the TV.

Our second-hand TV is dead.

I could be sad about that.
But, I’m not.
I’d rather read anyway.

My husband is definitely not happy.
No more soccer matches.
No more local news channels.
No more cooking shows.
Only Netflix on my computer
for now.