Category Archives: writing

Notebooks #SOL17

I had an important workshop today about Guided Reading.  I am a new K-12 Language Arts Literacy supervisor, but in my former life I was a high school teacher.  While I know the outlines of elementary education because of various early teaching experiences, I am always trying to learn more.  So I was ready to sit down with my notebook and take as many notes as I could.

I have a notebook for important things.  I’ve been keeping it since I started at my new position in July.  It is carefully indexed so I can easily find information I might need in the future.  It has gone with me to every important workshop and meeting I’ve had in the last nine months.

But this morning, as I settled the presenter in and readied myself for the workshop, I realized that the notebook was not in my bag.  It was in my office.  I panicked.  Yes, I could always take digital notes (and I had been planning on taking digital notes as well as hard copy notes anyway).  But my notebook allows for freedom that the computer does not.  I can write in the margins, make connections.  Computers just don’t do that.

I frantically searched my bag.  I found a small, pocket-sized Moleskin my sister had given me.  I wasn’t sure what I would do with it when she gave it to me, so I did almost nothing.  I had filled a few pages with random notes from a department meeting when I had no other paper, but I hadn’t done much else.  It was a beautiful notebook (don’t Moleskins always make you feel Parisian?  They make me feel Parisian.), and I didn’t want to “ruin” it by using it haphazardly.

But lately I’ve been inspired by the many journal posts I’ve seen, the authentic writing I’ve been doing.  So I kept the notebook on the table in front of me.  And while I took my formal, digital notes, I also kept gems in the notebook: reminders of things I wanted to remember about the workshop, about teaching, about life.  I think I’ll continue to use the notebook this way: as a place to record my thoughts and thinking that I want to remember, even if it’s not as carefully organized as the rest of my note-taking.  It felt authentic and real, and isn’t that what writing is supposed to feel like?

This post is part of the Slice of Life writing challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. You can find out more about the challenge here!

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Finished!

I have always struggled with my identity as a writing teacher.  I love teaching writing; I was just telling my husband today how much I love teaching AP Language because I love that I get to teach writing as the focus of the course.  It’s fun.  I’m not teaching AP Language this year, but writing is still at the center of my classroom.  I love seeing students find their voices and find their perspectives on the world.  It’s a rewarding gig.

But here’s the thing: I don’t consider myself a writer.  I never have.  I’m a reader, for sure.  But I wouldn’t say I’m a writer.  Somewhere in my 31 years of life I got the reputation as a “writer,” and that’s stuck with me.  But if you asked me about the myriad hats I wear, the chapeau of a writer would not be one of them.

Don’t get me wrong: I believe that teachers–all teachers–should be writers.  Science teachers should write about science.  Math teachers should write about math.  Art teachers should write about art.  We should practice what we preach.  And I do that with my students; I write what they write.  But I don’t write for myself.  I write for gradschool, and I write with them.  That’s it.

So I challenged myself to try on the kicky beret of a writer this month.  And I accomplished that goal.  I wrote every day for 31 days, and I read lots of wonderful writing.  My husband asked me today if I’d stick with blogging after the month was over.  Truthfully?  I don’t know.

I found this month that I like writing, but I’m not sure I love it.  I also found that that’s OK.  I have the ability to express myself in writing, and I do sometimes get joy from it if I’m writing about something I care about.  That’s what I hope to impart to my students.  I didn’t enjoy every Slice I wrote.  Some days were a struggle, for sure.  But when I connected with one of my topics, I did enjoy myself.  And I worked through some important ideas this month.  I am adjusting to my new role as mother and teacher and wife all at the same time, and it was helpful to put words to the ideas that were floating around inside.  Plus I like the idea of having something to look back on as I think about my daughter’s babyhood.  (Today was our first trip to the zoo–she’s growing up so fast!)

So I might continue blogging.  If I do it will probably be more about reading and teaching than about my every day life.  I’ll definitely continue journaling.  I’ll try to pop in on Tuesdays for the Slice of Life posts, if I’ve got something that week.  But even if this is my final post until next March I’m glad I participated.  I wrote for 31 days–I don’t think I’ve done anything for 31 days before!  Thanks to the teachers at Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Challenge!  And thanks to the other participants who inspired me daily!

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Running

I’ve been running regularly for five years.  I’ve run two marathons, five half marathons, a ten mile race, and countless 5Ks.  I’ve run in the rain, in the cold, in the sun, and in the shade.  But, for whatever reason, I didn’t consider myself a runner until I got pregnant.

Last January, when I found out I was having my first child, I was overjoyed.  But also a little disappointed.  I had signed up for what would be my sixth half marathon that spring, but morning sickness (and afternoon sickness and midday sickness and evening sickness and middle of the night sickness) kept me from training in the early months of my pregnancy.  To run the race, my doctor and I decided, would be imprudent.  The bigger I got the more uncomfortable I became, and running through the sweltering heat of the New Jersey summer was off the table. In the years since I began running I had taken it for granted.  I hadn’t realized how important it was for my sanity, my serenity, my soul.  Now it was taken from me, and I didn’t know how to get it back.

When I gave birth this October running was the last thing on my mind.  I wanted to lose the baby weight, sure, but in the miasma of diapers and bottles and Sophie the giraffe I couldn’t imagine the person who would lace up her sneakers and head out the door.  Even though running filled me with peace and joy (both of which I desperately needed those first few months) I just couldn’t do it.

At the end of January I returned to school and, what I hoped, would be a routine that would let me get on the road again.  But once again I had underestimated the demands of being a mother and a teacher (also a kind of mother in many ways) would take.  So I didn’t run.  And I didn’t feel good about it, but as I struggled to adjust to my new routines and my new roles I couldn’t see how I would be able to fit in another layer to my already muddled identity.

Then my sister, my wonderfully interfering sister, stepped in.  She registered me for the Brooklyn half marathon this May, even though I have not run a step since last January.  She registered herself and my husband as well.  They are both runners, too, always must faster and much stronger that I am.  I was daunted by the challenge.  Could I find the time for my training runs?  Would my body, which had seemed so foreign to me for so long, cooperate?  Return to its old routines and rhythms?

I went for my first run on Sunday.  My sister, husband, and I took the baby to the park where we all got our training in. I pushed the carriage while my husband and sister ran.  Then my husband pushed the carriage while my sister and I ran. It was only two miles, and I walked a lot, but they were two glorious miles.

I don’t know that I’ll be able to run all 13.1 miles this May.  I may have to walk some of them.  I may have to crawl some of them.  But I’ll finish that race.  Because I’m a runner.  And that’s what runners do.

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Filed under Memoir, running, SOL16, Uncategorized, writing

Slice of Life–Distraction

slice of life

I’m really beginning to look forward to the Slice of Life posts, so thanks to the ladies over at Two Writing Teachers for encouraging this kind of reflection!

We had an early dismissal today, like many schools in the tri-state area.  My husband and I got home just before 1:30, an hour before school would usually let out and at least 4 hours before I’d normally get home.  I allowed myself to relax for the first hour.  There’s something decadent about sitting on the couch, watching TV in the middle of the day.  I was watching How I Met Your Mother from last night when I glanced at my husband to make a comment about the show.  He was out.  Completely asleep.

What I really wanted to do was join him.  I wanted to curl up on the couch and let my eyes droop closed and sleep the afternoon away.  But I know that the early afternoon is my most productive time, so I gathered my grading and headed to the dining room.

I spent more time than I probably needed to organizing my grading.  Separating by assignment and class.  Alphabetizing.  You know the routine, because you probably do it to.  How much can I “do” before I actually have to do something?

Finally I was ready to read.  I had papers on Nickel and Dimed to read and reflections on our Macbeth Choose Your Own Adventure project to grade.  (Check out those projects here.  They are amazing!) But I made a fatal mistake.  I had faced myself facing the window.  This usually wouldn’t be a big deal.  Usually I would have the blinds closed and would be staring at the blank wall.  But our blinds broke about a week ago and we haven’t gotten around to replacing them (really because we think we want curtains but aren’t sure what kind…but that’s another story).  So instead of looking at the blinds,  was watching the snow come down.

I was mesmerized as I watched the snow pile up at the base of car wheels in our parking lot.  I watched as more and more of the lamp post was covered.  I watched my neighbors navigate the slippery path to their parking spots (and one near-miss accident!).  I watched the plow futilely drive back and forth, making no discernible difference in the condition of the parking lot.

I graded while I did this, of course, but in that sporadic way you grade when you haven’t found a rhythm or a groove.  Each paper felt like a new task.  What were the students doing again?  What scale was I grading this on again?  What chapter were they writing about again?  What subject do I teach again?  Every time I gained some traction, grading maybe three papers in a row, I’d look up and get lost in the weather again.

I finally finished one class of essays and admitted defeat for now.  Once it gets darker and I can no longer lose myself in the goings on of the parking lot, I’ll try again.  For now I’m giving myself permission to read a little bit, to write a little bit, to wind down a little bit.  After all, it’s a snow day.

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