Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Gaining Momentum by Jowan Nabha

Writing words on paper may sound simple enough. Just write. As much as we speak, writing should just come naturally. It can’t be that hard, right? Well, it is. Harder than anything I have learned to do in my life. With most things, you learn there are specific directions on how to make it work. How to bake a cake. How to fold your bed sheets so they’re nice and crisp. Writing, however. has no prescribed directions. Yes, there are techniques to writing and becoming an effective writer. However, you first have to be able to write them down. Only you can pull those words out of your head.

What I’ve learned this year about myself as a writer is that I write best at night. Something about being a night owl opens up my creative juices. Some of my best work (if you can call it that) has come late at night when everyone in my house is fast asleep and I’m left alone with my laptop. My creative juices are put to work and the words just seem to flow. Many times the words are jumbled and need editing, but I guess that’s the messy part of writing. I’m just happy I found out just how amazing writing truly is.

My summer goal of writing 15 minutes or more a day hasn’t become a reality quite yet. I am making tired excuses for myself why it’s ok for me not to write that day. Life gets busy. I had too many errands to run. I ran out of ideas. The list continues. However, when I write, I feel overwhelmed with joy. Even if all I did was edit a sentence I wrote the day before, I feel I am making progress. Progress. It’s what’s slowly building daily to finally becoming the check mark made on that to-do list. Writing for 15 minutes daily will be checked off soon. and soon my 30-minute goal will be checked off soon as well. Who knows, I might reach the 1-hour writing goal before year end.

Jowan Nabha is an accountant turned teacher. She is currently studying Early Childhood Education at the University of Michigan - Dearborn. She’s married and has three daughters to whom she devotes all her time to. Jowan can be reached at jnabha@umich.edu or follow her on Twitter @jowan_nabha

Monday, August 20, 2018

Going "All-In" by Tammy Breitweiser

In recent months, I have learned that to maintain my writing process I must go “all in.” What that means for me is I must write every day because writing makes me happy. I have not set a word count or a time limit. I find that if I self-impose a rule, being a rebel at heart, I won't follow it - even if I set it for myself. I have to keep it partly arbitrary to keep it motivating.

I do make it a priority.
I do take notes.
I do make a list of 10 ideas every day.

My blog is a great motivation to write. The feedback, the comments, the likes, and the interactions with teachers,  writers, readers, and teacher-writers is amazing. I am always looking at my life and experiences for interesting content to write about for either the blog or a short story and how that will be relevant to my readers.

I read an article this week about a teacher who used NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) as a writing exercise in his classes which reminded me students are motivating for me to write. Little people make my writing life richer. This fall I want to start a Short Story Club. I want to read them and then write them with students. Since I'm all about mentor texts stories, writing them is right along with my teaching style.

Recently, I started to refer to myself as a writer, not a with a capital W, but a lowercase. I write everyday. I publish on a blog. I submit to publications  I am part of a writer group. I will use my writer status to influence the people around me to see themselves as writers to whatever level they deem appropriate. A bonus is I improve my teaching and stay motivated. I am always learning about the process by reading and interacting. Hopefully this fall, I can rope my fellow coaches into some writing too. Motivation to be shared!

I’ll keep you posted.

Tammy L. Breitweiser is a curriculum coach in Northwest Indiana where she is currently dedicated to impacting student achievement in grades 7 and 8. With more than 22 years of experience, she is a reading advocate who believes in the reading and writing connection. She is working a collection of short stories and poems and a book about teaching writing.  You can connect with Tammy on Twitter (@tlbreit) or through her blog Tammy’s Reading/Writing Life:  https://tammysreadinglife.wordpress.com/

Friday, August 17, 2018

More than a Facilitator by Tracy Vogelgesang

I love teaching writing.  I love encouraging kids as they dabble in creating their own narratives or composing a research report that enlightens and entertains the reader.  No matter the genre, I encourage them to play with words and sentences, finding the perfect combination to say exactly what they want to say.  They love the freedom to choose, create, and find their voices in my room, and parents often thank me for helping their children learn to love writing.

There was only one problem.  I lived my own writing dreams through my learners. I facilitated a community of writers, but I was not one among them. 

Cue: mindset shift.  This summer has been a summer of reflection and growth as a teacher who writes.

Prior to my participation in the Teach Write community, I considered myself a teacher who dreams of being a writer...someday.  I held this dream of becoming a writer for most of my life, yet for various reasons, I denied myself permission to realize my dream.  My yearning to write, though, continued to grow, so I decided to do something about it.

My participation in the Teach Write community encourages my writing voice to step out of the shadows and be heard.  I am learning that taking “me time” to write each day is okay, in fact, necessary.

I will be returning to school living my own writing life along with my classroom writing community.  I will facilitate, yes, but I will do so by sharing my own writing experiences.  The thought of sharing this precious time with my students motivates me and helps me look at my instruction and curricula with fresh eyes.

My personal writing time has become a non-negotiable.  I will make time for it somehow in my daily schedule.  Whether it be five minutes or an hour, I want to be sure that I show up for my students and myself.  I cannot wait to see what this school year holds in my community of writers!

Tracy Vogelgesang currently teaches writing and science for grades 3-5. She has been teaching for 25 years and loves helping students discover their voices and realize the strengths and gifts they bring to this world. Tracy spends her free time building memories with her husband, children, grandchildren, and sweet little Jack Russell terrier. She also writes, reads, gardens, and enjoys time with friends. Tracy can be found on Twitter @Mrs_T_V.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

6 Steps to Keep Teacher-Writers Moving Forward All Year Long by Lisa Burns

Once a new school year begins, my days become full and my new habits can fall by the wayside. No matter how well intentioned I am, it’s difficult to maintain my writing habit in the midst of the Back-to-School hustle and bustle. So, how will I stoke the writing fire and keep my habit strong?

My 6 Step Plan for Keeping the Writing Habit All Year

Connect. Connecting with other writers regularly helps me stay motivated and on task. My writing group meets on Facebook, so I check in once a week.

Habit. Write daily and weekly according to my current habit. You’re thinking, “Thank you, Captain Obvious!” I know it seems obvious, but this is really more about maintaining the habit (even if it is just for 10 minutes each day). My point is, I can’t let the HABIT die or even slip. Sitting down and writing at my usual time, even if the time spent is shorter than I would like, is essential.

Write with students for a few minutes as they get started with their writing. It’s good modeling, and it’ll give me a few extra minutes of daily writing time as well.

Schedule time. If it’s not on the schedule, it’s not going to happen. I”ll continue to make a point of blocking out time for writing on my calendar. Putting writing time on my calendar with a time and date makes writing a priority, a promise to myself.

Routine. Create a morning or evening routine that includes time to write. Think autopilot. If I can make writing part of a larger routine, it can go on autopilot. Then, I’m less likely to forget or talk myself out of it.

Invite and inspire. While I have a [small] place set up to work at home, it’s been a while since I’ve spruced it up. Adding fresh flowers, painting and just re-organizing my space are on my to-do list this summer. Investing in my space will give me a little motivational boost.

I’ve got this! How about you?

With more than 20 years of experience in education, Lisa Burns has taught all grades K-6. Currently, she is a mentor teacher and instructional coach who is passionate about authentic learning in Language Arts, classroom organization and helping teachers thrive. When she is not busy supporting teachers, reading or writing, you’ll find her having fun with her family. Learn more about Lisa at https://www.hopeineducation.com or follow her on Twitter at @lisahburns, on Facebook, and on Instagram @lisa_j_burns. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Look Around by Mary Boone

Look away from your computer screen. Turn off the television. Put down your phone. Life is happening all around you; don’t miss it.
Observation is a powerful tool for writers. Details make stories come alive and those details will be more vivid, more believable if you call upon your real-life observations as a reference. The way leaves flutter in the wind, for example, can be better described by someone who has actually seen it happen than by someone who’s only seen YouTube videos of trees.
Take your notebook everywhere you go. If you’re not a practiced observer, your first observations may be more general. You’ll make notes about sounds and colors. But as you fine-tune your observation skills, you’ll begin to notice smaller details:

  • The way the butcher deftly wraps and ties up your order, always cutting exactly the right amount of twine.
  • The uneven gait of an elderly kerchiefed woman as she wheels her cart of groceries down the street.
  • The way a wailing toddler’s sobs morph into gasps as she wipes her face on her mother’s blouse.

These very real sensory details can add life to any sort of writing, even for those creating fantastical worlds. The lessons you learn by observing and recording sights, sounds, and smells will provide a foundation for any settings or characters you can imagine. Sunsets won’t simply be golden. Your observational skills, instead, will allow you to paint them in swaths of yellow and orange that melt into the hillside and steal the warmth from the summer sky.

When beginning your own observation habits – or encouraging them in your students – start small. I generally walk or run the same four-mile loop every day. I started by challenging myself to note new details on that route every time I traveled it. I began to pay closer attention to the houses I passed, the people I encountered. Today, nearly three years later, I’m still finding new details along that path to add to my daily observation notebook.

Look around. What you need to become a better writer really is out there.

Mary Boone has written more than 40 nonfiction books for young readers. She leads writing workshops at several community colleges in Washington state’s Puget Sound region. Visit her website at www.boonewrites.com or follow her on Twitter at @boonewrites.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

It's About the Mindset by Mario Kersey

Since 2014, I have moved into August confident that my writing life will be less disrupted by the ineluctable school year. For years prior, my bright ideas and momentum disappeared like smoke in a hurricane, because I had to attend professional development or work on a new syllabus or arrange my room.  And that’s just the workdays before school officially started.  So, what did I change? The quick answer is: I changed my mindset.

Now, don’t worry, I won’t become Dweckian here.  In the past, I stopped writing during the workdays before school started.  My thought at that time was to commit fully to whatever new theme or agenda we were pushing for the upcoming school year.  I mean I ate and slept new school year like I was prepping for a marathon.

The novel act I performed to change this behavior was to write during this preparatory phase.  Wow!  Whenever the flare of an idea lit up my mind’s eyes during the workdays, I wrote it down on whatever I had at hand.  In other words, I wrote new lines of poetry, loglines, paragraphs, or dialogue in addition to the actual projects set in motion (I created a writer’s scrapbook to keep up.).  As a result, my overall mood changed to positive because I was constantly producing something. I felt a sense of accomplishment and a growing confidence that I could be productive and successful writing during the school year.  The bigger projects were also being completed despite the usual distractions a school year engenders.

Also, I made the decision to respect my writing time more and what it brings to my teaching. My writing makes me better prepared to deal with the struggles my students will experience when explicating a poem in an essay or writing a villanelle.  By respecting my craft—both of them—life became more harmonious.

So the moral here is to write as often as possible if you can’t write every day.  Furthermore, if the opportunity presents itself, share your “pain” with your students.  It demystifies writing to them and keeps writing.

Mario Kersey studies society through the classrooms of his English students. When not teaching writing, literature, and the sometimes frustrating quirkiness of the English language, he bakes cakes, pies, and biscuits. He’s shy until someone disparages the five-paragraph essay, then the claws come out.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Just Write by Julie Cox

One of the enduring stereotypes about English teachers is that they all have unfinished novels in their desks. It sounds believable, because what teacher has time to write? Grading, conferencing, and planning are incredibly important and meaningful, but they also swallow time in great gulps. For many of us, the jolt of restarting a structured routine at the end of summer bumps any meaningful writing time right out the door.

Journaling is one of the ways I hold on to my writing when the pace of life outruns me. One year I bought a planner with space for reflection, and journaling became my Friday-afternoon tradition at my desk as I planned the next week. When I didn’t have paper handy, I jotted thoughts on index cards, sorting through my day to reframe my mind. For years, I wrote in the same kinds of composition books that my students used, sometimes as soon as they left the classroom.

Journaling isn’t about perfect writing; my goal is to capture slices of life. Making sense of them comes later when days don’t feel so rushed.

Now I write in thin Moleskine notebooks that slide easily into my bag next to whatever book I’m reading. I write in the morning before anyone else is up or at night after everyone is asleep, and I try not to be bothered that I don’t write as much as I do in the summer, or that at the start of the school year, most of what I scribble is not great or even interesting.

I just write. I keep my writing muscles in shape for the days when life calms. I watch for the treasures to reveal themselves, in my life and on the page.

Julie Cox is a high school English teacher in Kentucky, where she has taught for 17 years. When she is not teaching and writing, she loves reading and traveling with her husband and two children. You can find her online at tryingtomakeitreal.wordpress.com, where she blogs sporadically, or on Twitter: CoxJulieC.

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