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Archive for June, 2011

I have felt a kinship to this book ever since I started it.  Until today that is.  Before I reached chapter 3, I felt my fist pumping in the air and shouting, “Yes!” as I was reading.  Yes!  Students should be flooded with good books!  Yes!  We, as educators, should not be teaching to the test.  Yes!  We need to allow time for students to read in school, what the hell ever happened to SSR anyway?  And then….chapter 3, “Avoiding the Tsunami,” the overteaching of books, the chop-chop syndrome, too much analyzing and reflecting on a book can also cause readicide.   Oh crap.  I definitely fall into this category.  My heart sank as I realized I, too, am part of the problem.

I almost stopped reading right then and there, but I told myself to forge ahead.  And I am glad I did because I learned that there is a balance to recreational reading and academic reading.  I knew this of course, but as I was reading about the horrors of sticky notes, reflections, and journaling, I lost sight of it.  Becoming aware that I may be killing my students enjoyment of reading made me feel like I was socked in the gut.  Me?  An avid reader?  I am causing readicide in my own classroom?  And I truthfully, I probably have.  And that sucks.  I must remember, however, that the answer is balance, and I think I provide that, mostly.  Nonetheless, it does give me something to strive for, to be better at.

I will continue pumping my fist in the air as I finish this wonderful, to the point book.

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Trying to Find Relief on a Summer Morning

It was a hot and muggy morning. The house felt heavy.

The only sound was the repetitive ticking of the clock.

As I opened the front door, I was hit with a humid hand.

There was no comfort outside either.

I turned to go back inside, hoping to find a fan.

 

This was my replacement poem after hearing Kim’s enlightening teacher demo.  It was based off of this poem:

 

Driving to Town Late to Mail a Letter by Robert Bly

It is a cold and snowy night.  The main street is deserted.

The only things moving are swirls of snow.

As I lift the mailbox door, I feel its cold iron.

There is a privacy I love in this snowy night.

Driving around, I will waste more time.

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It was interesting to read Bird by Bird because I’ve never completely considered myself a writer, and she talked to her audience as true writers.  It made me feel more official for lack of a better word.  I’ve always loved to write, I teach 8th grade Language Arts, and as often as I can I write with my students.   I’ve always felt in my heart that I am a writer, but it is a scary thing to say out loud. 

As I continued reading, I began to hear a little voice in my head.  “Well, look at that, you really are a writer.  And maybe you actually know a thing or two about writing.”  Many of Anne Lamott’s thoughts on writing are things that I already do during my own personal writing process, yet, I always considered them incorrect when teaching my students.   I NEVER know where my stories are heading and rarely focus on plot.   What about all those story maps we are supposed to have our students fill out?  I LOVE creating characters, and sometimes that is all I do when I write, create a new character.   Don’t forget to fill out those character sketches before you begin writing!  I could just cringe with what I’ve had my students do in the past all in the name of the writing process. 

Just this year I began admitting to my students that when I write I have no idea where I am heading, I just write and see what happens.  And I encourage them to write this way too.  I am a bit annoyed that it took me 10 years to come to an understanding that is part of my writing process and it is okay.  I love her ideas of small assignments, looking through a 1-inch picture frame, and to not worry about all those shitty first drafts.  Just write.  One of the ideas of Lamott’s, a writing ritual, is something I am going to try to really put into practice in my own life.  Generally, I write when my students write and that is it, but I want to do even more writing.  Lamott suggested writing at the same time everyday and coming up with some sort of ritual, maybe a cup of coffee or some sort of meditative breathing or whatnot.  It will trigger your mind and/or your subconscious to get into the writing zone so to speak.  As I think of how this will realistically fit into my life, well, I am not really sure, but I’d like it to be. 

Another part of Lamott’s perspective of writing that I thought was intriguing was to write about your truths, your deepest convictions and beliefs.  These will give passion to your writing, it will keep you going, and quite possibly enlighten your readers in some way.  I also found it interesting how she keeps notecards all over the place and in her pocket at all times.  While I love the idea of writing down things that trigger memories or things that I notice, I can’t get past how messy all of those notecards would be.   They would end up on my kitchen table where everything and its brother ends up.  They would be made into paper balls or airplanes by my kids and then batted around the house by my cats.  And then I’d walk around bitching about how messy the house is as I am picking them up.  I would just end up throwing them all out.  I think instead I will try keeping a notebook in my purse, diaper bag, car, and work bag and see where that takes me.

There were a few aspects of her book that I could not completely connect with:  Jealousy and Publication.  I am not a professional writer by any means or have any desire to make a living from writing.  So caring about getting published (which of course, secretly, I’d love to be published) and being jealous of other writers did not necessarily ring true for me.  However, most of Lamott’s book felt as if she were speaking directly to me, as if she looked directly into my heart and soul.  She said, “Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation.  They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life:  they feed the soul.” 

And that is exactly why I read and I write.  I want to share this love, this spirituality, with everyone and anyone who will listen.

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