Day 26 – SOL March Challenge – A Writing Workshop Inquiry

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This morning I listened to Maureen Barbieri interview Shelley Harwayne about her new book, Above and Beyond the Writing Workshop.

I was so inspired listening to Harwayne talk about wanting to find a way for teachers and students to reclaim the joy of writing workshop as it was initially envisioned and practiced.

Harwayne’s new book, which I own but have yet to read, is about how to reclaim the spirit of writing workshop, in part, through authentic writing challenges that nudge exploration of the world outside the classroom, as well as short writing projects. At least, that was my take from the interview.

Quiet reading workshop classrooms raise a red flag for Harwayne and although many of us, including children, need some quiet spaces to write, we also need opportunities to talk about our writing with others.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this interview today.

Do my students see writing as a joyful, exciting and worthwhile endeavor?

Do they use writing to accomplish things? Or is their writing primarily confined to what we do in our classroom?

For example, I have been observing some of my students use chart paper to make lists, announce a new club they’ve created, or admonish others to recycle and to put trash where it belongs. At one point, there were so many ongoing “chart” writing projects that I finally designated a red tub for kids to store them rather than leaving them lying around the room.

My initial gut feeling is that my students are doing this when they don’t have any ideas for writing. So, I’ve been observing this trend on the sidelines for a while now. When I return this week I have a plan.

I have more questions than conjectures, but I’m eager to dig into an investigation of these projects.

Is the size of the paper the attraction? It seems easier for two children to work together on a large sheet of paper than it is for them to collaborate on 8 1/2 x 11 paper.

Or is making a poster easier for them than writing a story, no matter the genre?

I will be inviting those students who have participated in this trend to join me for a conversation circle. I want to hear what their intent is (if they even know) and what they want to do with these charts when they’re finished. Some have been hung up around the school; most languish in the red tub at the back of the room.

My primary goal is for my students to like to write and to view writing as an essential part of their life. I know that the self-selected writing projects they work on during writing workshop, such as the chart paper phenomenon, something they enjoy. But are they also learning from these engagements? And what, exactly are they learning?

I’m not sure, but I am eager to explore these questions further.

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

Day #25 SOL March Challenge – Self-Care

I’ve been thinking a lot about why I felt such relief at the end of the day yesterday.

Why did I feel my body relax when my dentist appointment was done and the cleaner finished cleaning my house?

Maybe because I don’t like going to the dentist or the doctor for anything (and I’m anticipating my 6-month checkup with my hematologist in a couple of weeks?). I do like having my house cleaned, though!

I think the anticipation I’d felt the day before got the better of me as I went around making sure the house was ready for the cleaner and that I was ready for my dentist appointment.

On the other hand, I was looking forward to today’s self-care dates, some might call then indulgent, for my hair and a mani-pedi.

So, here I am at my appointment. Waiting to be pampered on the Friday before I go back to school.

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

Day 24 – SOL March Challenge – Today, Tomorrow, the Weekend and Next Week

As this week winds down so does my Spring Break.

Today was reserved for dentist appointments and to get the house professionally cleaned.

Tomorrow it’s hair and mani-pedi appointments.

And, on the weekend I’ll be taking some time for planning.

But I’ll also go out for breakfast with my son and get a little bit of shopping done at the mall.

Then on Sunday he and I watch the Oscars. Really, I’m just a slightly reluctant companion. If truth be told, of all the celebrity awards galas, the Oscars are my least favorite. But it’s a great opportunity to spend some time with my son as we watch to see if our preferred movies are awarded an Oscar.

The weather next week looks a bit gloomy, but it will be just right for going back to work.

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

Day 23 – SOL March Challenge – Friends

Today I got together with some friends that I haven’t seen since the fall.

We met about 15 years ago as new hires in one of the Spanish bilingual schools here in Calgary.

Since then we’ve taught at several different schools in the city.

Of the five of us there today (three from the original group couldn’t make it) we represent three bilingual schools.

We walked down the artsy neighborhood in Calgary – Inglewood – and went into some really fun stores. Some of us made purchases while others just browsed the aisles.

Then, we went to have lunch.

That’s when the conversation veered to the bilingual program, our respective schools and our experiences teaching during year 3 of the pandemic.

As we were heading back to our cars, we stumbled across a Colombian restaurant – three of the five of us are Colombian – and stopped for a cup of Colombian coffee, fried plantains and arepas.

We left the restaurant, but not before snapping a few pictures and sharing a few more laughs.

We said our goodbyes, promised to get together once a month, which we used to do pre-pandemic, and left for home.

I left my house at 9:20 am and got back at 4:00 pm.

It was a perfect day.

I can’t wait for the next time we can get together.

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

Day 21 – SOL March Challenge – A Life Lesson

Today I went to lunch with a teacher friend.

She is someone I didn’t connect with when I first met her and, unfortunately, I didn’t hide my feelings very well. But maybe that was for the best because one day she confronted me and we agreed to talk.

I told her that I was feeling left out of the relationship that she had with our other team member. I told her that was why I thought I was being “snarky” – her word, not mine – but certainly an accurate description of my behavior towards her.

After that conversation I made a conscious effort to listen more and be less “snarky”, and it worked.

I am not proud of the way I interacted with this teacher and I’ll always be grateful that she didn’t excuse or ignore my behavior.

Since then I’ve leaned something important about myself: I sometimes look for an adversary and have used this to play the victim, rather than to forge connections. Whether or not I was “right” and they were “wrong” or I thought I was a better teacher than they were, I missed many opportunities to learn and grow from these encounters. And, although I have sometimes been right in my assessment of some colleagues I’ve worked with, negatively perseverating on those relationships never added value to my life. In fact, it often detracted from my sense of well-being both at school and at home.

If I were to mentor a new teacher now I would say many things, but most importantly I would recommend that they nurture relationships rather than destroy them, no matter how difficult that may be. I would also tell them to keep work conflicts at work where they belong.

My teacher friend and I had a really pleasant lunch. We mostly talked about things unrelated to school. In fact, our shop talk lasted for about 10 minutes, which is not usually the case when I get together with other teachers.

I know that focusing on regrets is not a good way to live life, but I think it’s important to recognize the mistakes we’ve made and how things could have been different if we’d chosen a different path. I am not beating myself over the head about this. On the contrary, I am thankful that I learned a big life lesson as a result.

Cross posted to the Two Writing Teachers March Slice of Life Challenge.

Day 19 – SOL March Challenge – My Parents

I don’t often write about my parents.

The memories are too painful and maybe not for the reasons you may think.

I had (have) a complicated relationship with my parents, especially with my mother.

My father passed away more than 10 years ago and my mother left us in the middle of the pandemic. But none of it seems real.

I sometimes reach for my phone to call my mom and then I remember she won’t be there to answer.

I still have Miami weather on my phone’s weather app.

My parents’ phone numbers are still in my contacts list.

I get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when I remember they’re no longer alive. That I’m estranged from my only brother and don’t have any desire to repair our relationship at this point. That the family I grew up with is no longer my family. That I only have memories of my childhood family and many of those memories have been erased by time or fear or sadness or all of the above.

On a quiet, still day like today I wish it could be different. But I no longer delude myself into thinking that I can change my relationship with my brother or his family.

I’m not even sure I can reconcile my relationship with my parents or the rest of my family, although I’ve tried often. In my head. On paper. In therapy.

It is what it is.

I just wish it wasn’t.

I watch my husband and his siblings – all seven of them – interact with each other and wish I’d had a similar experience with my brother growing up. I think I’d be a different person now in all the ways I’m not.

I’m so happy that my three children have each other’s backs, and will always have each other’s backs, no matter what.

And, then I am grateful for the family my husband and I created. From scratch. From love. Mistakes and all. When I get sad about my own family, I remind myself of this simple truth.

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

Day 18 – SOL March Challenge – Staff Meeting

Today I spoke up at our staff meeting about another system-wide initiative we are being told to do.

On top of the testing and recording of the results that also has to be done to determine if “intervention” money – targeted at closing learning “gaps” due to COVID – was well spent.

Plus all the other things we need to do because our students need us to teach them.

So, I spoke up.

The air in the room seemed to freeze or maybe it just stood still. At least it felt that way to me. Slowly, though, other teachers backed up what I was saying.

It needed to be said.

I asked for time so that grade level teams could talk about the new 3-week mini unit we have to do.

And, why were we meeting on the Friday before Spring Break to talk about a new project?

We need more time.

I felt vulnerable speaking out earlier.

I feel vulnerable writing about this now.

It has to be done.

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

Day 17 – SOL March Challenge – Spring Break

Another short and sweet post…

One more sleep until Spring Break.

I can’t believe I made it this far.

I’m looking forward to some rest and also to getting some things done.

I want to get out of the house every day.

To walk. To run errands. To browse in a bookstore and the library.

To read and write.

To go to the movies.

Maybe to lunch and dinner with my son.

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