Write about what your everyday life offers you; describe your sorrows and desires, the thoughts that pass through your mind and your belief in some kind of beauty. Rilke
Have you written something I have read? What are you writing now?
The questions I get when I tell people I’m a writer.
Or then there are the suggestions…
Why don’t you write a young adult novel? You can make a lot of money that way. Or something spiritual. People like spiritual books. You could write about your teaching experiences.
For quite a while I felt I needed to answer these people. I should be writing something for them to read. And maybe their ideas are something to consider.
I write morning pages…and sometimes afternoon pages…or evening pages.
I post a quote on Facebook.
I respond to my quote on WordPress.
I write reflections after visiting classrooms and teaching classes.
I send email.
I attend a weekly writing group.
I go to workshops and conferences on writing.
I give workshops on writing.
I am a writer.
Oh, and I read…
A writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well, they strengthen their souls. Story-tellers and poets spend their lives learning that skill and art of using words well. Ursula Le Guin
Today I observed a sixth grade social studies class at a middle class middle school and an eighth grade English class at a 7-12 low socio-economic secondary school. On the way home I stopped at the store for laundry detergent and was greeted by a “grumbly” cashier.
In a little while I will lead an intern seminar on student behaviors and teacher responses, then go to my writing group.
Yes, I am spending my life learning (and teaching) the skill and art of using words well.
A storyteller is passionately interested in human beings and their endless conflicts with their fates…. Dudley Nichols
On Mondays I teach math activities to small groups of children in an after school program. Yesterday is rainy and attendance is down for the lesson on measurement. The lesson begins by marking each child’s height on a growth chart.
A girl who is repeating first grade and a home schooled kindergarten boy are the only ones in the first group. We each have rulers and with a bit of practice learn how to line the ruler up against the object to be measured. How long is this pencil? Is this book the same length on all four sides? Who has the bigger shoe? When we measure the 4′ fish tank with a tape measure, I hold one end and the little boy holds the other. The girl is to read the number, but she has no clue. The kindergartener helps her. My job is to make suggestions and monitor their skills.
The second group consists of the first grade brother of the kindergartener and a second grade boy. The second grader, a bit disruptive in most group settings, is completely engaged as he measures everything in the room. The first grader needs more encouragement from me.
A fifth grade girl and sixth grade boy are in the third group. The sixth grader has just begun middle school and his new maturity shows. He patiently works with the girl as she struggles to figure the area and perimeter of the door. I just watch and affirm.
The last group consists of twins, eighth grade boys who are enrolled in an online school, and another home schooled sixth grader diagnosed with Asberger’s. This combination is trickier. The twins compete with each other and the sixth grader is hard to engage. But each in his own way found something in the room that was 20″. ( The best answer is the diagonal of a hanging picture) Once again my job is to watch and affirm, even with the sixth grader, who in his own time and way participates.
I, as teacher and writer, am finding my place in the story.
Man’s mind, stretched by a new idea, never goes back to its original dimensions. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Have you ever had one of those days where you find yourself in settings you thought familiar, only to wonder where am I? What’s going on? How did I get here? Who am I now?
Yesterday was like that for me. What I thought I knew was being challenged. Perhaps yesterday’s quote should have been Meister Eckhart’s words, “Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.” That was the mantra running through my head.
The surreal day began with a book club meeting (see yesterday’s post, We the People). Writing about it helped put it in perspective. But later in the day while teaching “how to write an effective lesson plan” to my interns, I was constantly questioning how effective my own lesson really was. Where am I? What’s going on? How did I get here? Who am I now?
Then last night in a circle of friends at writer’s group I felt detached. Alex told me I seemed pretty normal. I guess I was assessing what normal is for me. Where am I? What’s going on? How did I get here? Who am I now?
Being in the world with the observation skills honed from writing practice is challenging. Yesterday’s quote, “Even in the mud and scum of things, something always, always sings,” was the new idea I am being stretched with. And it took a night’s rest to just get to this place. Wherever this is.
No one’s mouth is big enough to utter the whole thing. Alan Watts
Three different groups of people in one day.
First group: A follow up meeting of volunteers from a summer community youth gardening program to evaluate the summer and make plans for the future. Most are retired teachers. This is the fourth year of the program and the most successful summer yet. One of the future plans includes ways to share this program throughout the city.
Second group: A joint meeting of supervisors, interns, and the director of field experiences. All of the supervisors are retired teachers or college professors and each have supervised interns for several years. They met a month earlier to discuss past experiences and ideas for the new year.
Third group: A small group of writers meeting weekly in a member’s home. Although the group’s members change, the format remains the same. There is time for each writer to talk and share ideas, and to write.
Why are all of these groups working so well? Is it the experiences we bring and share? The commitment to the programs? The respect for all involved? The desire to continue learning? All of the above?
The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself. Anna Quindlen
One of my son Carlton’s favorite sayings as a young child was “You’re not the boss of me.” He would use it after I had delivered “constructive criticism” (my mother’s words) about a certain behavior or way of doing something.
Another was “That’s your opinion.” This comment would follow a particularly “profound” piece of advice I had shared with him.
Ah, the wisdom of small children.
The words I have needed to override the critical voices that haunt me when I’m not paying attention.
“Why in the world would you choose to do that?” the condescending voice questions.
“You’re not the boss of me,” I think, feeling the freedom from justifying myself.
“You spend too much time lost in words,” the it’s-for-your-own-good wise one offers.
“That’s your opinion,” I smile and continue to type.
Thanks, Carlton. The still, small voice I carry inside.
Carlton, age 5
You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have. Maya Angelou
Whoa!!! So the plan is to write morning pages, maintain a daily blog, read at least an hour a day, facilitate two weekly intern seminars, teach an afterschool program of creative word and number play twice a week, alternate exercise classes with mindful walking, and begin gathering stories for my new writing project.
So this week I add the two intern seminars to my schedule of morning pages, a daily blog, an exercise plan and reading, and I’m already behind. Except in a good way. I’m excited. I carry a notepad with me everywhere now, so I can jot down the ideas that come to me in the car, the shower, exercise class, the grocery store, the walk, the meetings, and the Toyota waiting room. Breathe, Laura. This is a good thing.
My computer should be ready early next week and I’ll begin visiting interns’ classrooms–an alternative remedial reading class and a high school biology class. One of the books I’m currently reading, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch, tells of her plan to read a book a day for a year and by the first week she’s sounding rather overloaded. Breathe, Laura. This is a good thing.
I am amazed at the creative energy that is pulsing through my once overwhelmed self.
I’m signing off now. There’s tilipia in the refrigerator to be turned into fish tacos and a stack of books that needs to go back to the library. Wonder what ideas will spark from those two activities?