Friday, May 25, 2018

Notice What You Need to Feed Your Writing Life by Erin Vogler

I am a better everything: wife, dog mom, teacher, friend, colleague, reader; when I write.

This is something I know in the deepest parts of me.  I have also come to notice that I am a better writer when I regularly take time to care for myself.  For me, this means taking advantage of the beautiful hiking trails in my (finally) green and lush corner of the world. It means time on my yoga mat where breath and movement become one, and I allow all of the stressors that are part of life and teaching to scatter with each deep inhale and exhale. Often, it is the simple joy of grabbing a great book and heading out to my porch or gazebo and escaping into someone else’s world while I allow mine to fall away for an hour or two.

The end of the school year is upon us. This is a time when we get caught up in the rush of all the things we need to do, the places we need to be, the to do list never seems to end.  I notice that this is the time of year when I often feel so busy that I make myself believe I don’t have time for that hike, mat time, or to escape with a great book.

When I’m not taking care of myself, holding myself accountable for taking and savoring that down time, I don’t write often.  Sometimes not at all.  Looking back at old notebooks, I notice that many of them have a gap that begins somewhere around May 1st and ends once I’ve embarked on summer vacation in late June.  It is no coincidence that I am more stressed, less focused, and have a much more difficult time processing and dealing with new information during that two month stretch. I’m not practicing the things that help me do that well: self-care and writing.

I’ve challenged myself to do better this season. To notice the importance of finding joy, space, and peace, even for a few minutes each day. To notice how that time leads me to more focused and insightful writing, writing that makes me proud and that I am proud to share with others.  I am a better everything when I write, and I am a better writer when I take care of myself by taking time to breathe deeply and celebrate the things that feed my soul.

I challenge you to do the same.  You won’t be sorry.

Erin Vogler is in the final weeks (seven to be exact) of her 18th year of teaching at Keshequa Middle/High School in the Genesee Valley in Western New York. She has taught grades 7-12, and is currently reading and writing beside 8th and 10th graders. Erin is working on becoming a more consistent writer who shares her thoughts on teaching, reading, and writing at You can also find her on Twitter @vogler3024 and Instagram @mrsvogler3024.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Looking Closely and Noticing by Pam Taylor

As a “lifer” in Kindergarten, I’ve learned to look closely at the world around me. I look closely when I am observing 4 and 5 year olds in their play. I teach students to look closely at natural materials. I ask them to notice the finer points of their structures and look for ways to improve what they have built. And we spend time talking, laughing and learning as we search to find the good, the compassion and the strengths in ourselves and each other. 

Although I am great at looking closely at my students and at noticing and naming the learning that I see each day through our play based learning in Kindergarten, I struggle to find a way to notice my own strengths and weaknesses. Sure, I know that I am great at knitting and crocheting, but lousy at karate. I can remember where my eldest son left his headphones, but I can’t remember 5 things on a grocery list. I am a fantastic problem solver - as long as that problem doesn’t impact me directly.

I have noticed, over the years, that I have a desire to be a writer. But my struggle to write consistently comes from the fact that writing takes time, practice, determination and time. (Yes, I said it twice).  I envy those who can create a blog post every day and sound eloquent, intelligent and put together. I struggle to get my thoughts down on a monthly basis. But I am noticing that I am becoming more attuned to my ideas of sharing my professional journey. I am noticing that I feel like I don’t have to be eloquent all the time. I just need to share more often.

My writing has started to change. I had a blog about 2 years ago that I thought would revolutionize inquiry based learning and make everyone sit up and take notice. I tried to be witty and knowledgeable in every blog post. I wrote 5 posts before I burned out. So I gave up. But the embers of that burn out continued to smolder. I read more blogs by people I admire. I started to notice that not everyone had something life-altering to say in each post. It was more about sharing and getting ideas on “paper” (virtual, but paper nonetheless).  So, another blog was started. And this one feels…better. More authentic. And for me, that’s something worth noticing.

Pam Taylor is a Kindergarten teacher and Makerspace facilitator in Brampton, Ontario, Canada. At almost 20 years of experience in the classroom and as a literacy consultant, Pam continues to find the love and humour in the smile of 4 and 5 year olds each day. She can be found on Twitter with the handle @TayloredInquiry.  Her blog can be found at

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Growing as a Writer by Michelle Olson

This school year, I started with such excitement as I was bringing back Writer’s Workshop to my school. I loved seeing how the students grew to love writing as they realized that it could be fun!

But one thing that I noticed was, as much excitement that I had for the writing of my students, I was not writing. Sure, I wrote occasionally when I wasn’t conferring with students and I wrote when I needed to for job purposes, but I was not writing regularly for me or because I wanted to be writing.

Fast forward to April… I had the itch to write. I hadn’t ever really felt this before, to the degree where I was wanting to share my writing. It was such a strange feeling to have, wanting to share what I had written, not just with my students, but also with the world, anyone who was willing to read what I had written!

So I did something that I never thought I would do, I started my very own blog. I had been thinking about this for awhile and finally took the plunge.

And what a feeling! I love being able to write...about my love for literacy and my family.  I can keep writing and growing as a writer!

Michelle Olson-I am a reading specialist by day and wife, mom, and Usborne book lady by night! I recently earned my doctorate and focused on students’ attitudes towards themselves as writers and their own writing. Follow me on Twitter at @molson414 and at my blog, Books on the Back Porch: I am also a contributor for the Reading by Example blog:

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Noticing my Writerly Life by Ona Feinberg

Laughing about my dog’s antics, my son said, “I wish it were still March, so I could write about this.”

In March, his class wrote daily, inspired by The Two Writing Teachers “Slice of Life” challenge. I loved having a slicing partner, watching my kid become a writer.

“You can still write slices even though it’s not March!  Open your google doc!” I smiled, internally rolling my eyes: Kids! Like you can only write in March... 

Then I paused. Even I haven’t written much since March. I still notice slices and write in my head. Writing every day for a month makes me a forever-noticer. I see patterns and characters everywhere. In March I race to write them down. After March, there are many forgotten stories. Why does the March Slice of Life Challenge help me live my writerly life? How can I keep that all year?

Time. In March, I know I need to write every day. It’s a priority.

Focus. Every day I write a small slice of life, not a long story, lesson, or essay. I notice a slice, and I write!

Choice. I write in paragraphs, in poetry, in 6-word memoir… Any format - the choice is mine.

Audience. During March, more people read my blog than any other time. It feels good, real people reading my words.

Feedback. More readers equal more comments. I notice the kinds of comments I get depend on the writing I do, so I grow as a writer.

Community. Commenting is part of the March challenge, so I read more blogs than usual. I get to know other writers, getting new ideas, giving feedback.

Time, focus, choice, audience, feedback, and community. . .  How can I keep these all year?  How can I offer these to my students?

Ona Feinberg is a K-5 Instructional Coach in Central Pennsylvania. She began her teaching career in second grade, and started teaching 6th grade in 2001. She is passionate about teaching, reading, writing, authenticity, kindness, and her three children. When she isn’t at school you might find her writing, reading, or walking her dog, Finnegan Foxy Feinberg. You can follow her on her blog, or on twitter @OnaFeinberg

Monday, May 21, 2018

What I See Deep Inside by Erin Denny

My life as a (gulp) writer has changed recently.

I finally decided to start characterizing myself in the ways that I see me deep inside. You know, those profound places in which others aren’t allowed.

I’ve whispered some of my dreams to a select few over the past the years, but I’ve never actually owned that part of my life. 

I’m an extremist: food really sweet or salty, classroom icy cold. I guess I was worried about being one of those people who never went anywhere with their dreams, like if I didn’t become published then none of my writing mattered.

But, lately, I’ve noticed, as I’m finally accepting my empty nest (a whole other story), that I want to be a person that I’m proud of.

When my kids were little, it was all about wanting to be someone they were proud of. I still want that, of course, but now I’m beginning to look at how I see myself: what makes me think ‘that was a good day’ as I lay my head down at night.

One thing I desire is to be a person who lives out who I am inside.  Inside of me is a writer who has many stories to tell, a writer that has been caged up for far too long.

I’m proud of the "me" that’s a teacher and a mom, but I’m more than ‘Erin the Teacher’ or ‘Erin the Mom,’ right? I also love music, creating in all different ways, talking with people, traveling, reading, playing with my cats, and WRITING. 

As I’ve embraced “Erin the Writer,” I noticed others have too.

Who am I going to be at the end of my life?

I have no idea, but I like the direction I’m headed.

Erin Denny teaches 4th grade ELAR in a North Texas school district. She just received her master’s degree in education and is working towards a Master Reading Certificate. She hastwo beautiful and amazing children, one a musician and the other a writer. She loves being a mom, a teacher, and learning. You can follow her on Twitter at @MzDenne.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Journey is How We Grow by Tynea Lewis

Sometimes as writers there are so many ideas floating around in our heads that it becomes a jumbled mess.

We start pieces because an idea is sparked within us, but we don’t always know how it’s going to end. We type one word, one sentence, one paragraph at a time. Slowly, a piece emerges. Slowly, everything makes sense.

Honestly, I struggled with this post, which is unusual and quite a bit frustrating. When I started, I didn’t know what it was going to look like. As ideas came, I jotted them down, and then it became a puzzle to put together. One piece here, one piece there.

But the more I think of it, isn’t that the joy of writing?

Sometimes you have to welcome the unknown and see it as a journey instead of a destination.

We forget that the journey is how we grow. We learn so many things about ourselves and our writing along the way.

I love the idea of writing notebooks. Everything in one place, neat and tidy. I’ve tried to start them time and time again, but I don’t keep up with them.

My system?

A file folder filed with scraps of paper, torn off napkins, empty gum wrappers.

It might look like trash, but it’s filled with treasure.

Treasure of undiscovered stories, articles, and poems.

I like the fluidity of a folder. It’s easy to move the pieces around. It’s easy to fit the pieces together.

As I reflect on this system, I realize I’ve done it ever since I was little.

There’s a folder in my filing cabinet filled with ideas from elementary school.

There’s a folder in my filing cabinet filled with ideas from high school and college.

And now there’s a folder on my desk filled with little nuggets I capture throughout the day as a mom of two preschoolers.

Collect the ideas.

Store them away.

And you will discover a treasure chest one day.

Tynea Lewis is a former Title I teacher from Pennsylvania. She was named a 30 Under 30 honoree by the International Literacy Association in 2016 for her work with LitPick Student Book Reviews, an online reading and writing program. When she’s not busy overseeing the program or working for Family Friend Poems, she loves to spend time with her husband and young daughters, write for a variety of audiences, and escape to the quietness of the mountains. You can connect with her on Twitter and Instagram at @TyneaLewis or on her blog at

Friday, May 18, 2018

Reconnecting with My Writing Life by Wendy Chaulk

We had a tall, beautiful, lush pine tree in our backyard. Birds played in its branches. Last summer, I noticed it was turning red. Not all of it, just some of the lower needles. I trimmed some branches hoping to bring it back to life. Over the winter, it became obvious that the tree was a goner. All of the needles turned red and then brown. Branches snapped off easily. The tree was dead. Recently, my husband chopped it down. Seeing it lying there made me sad, but I know that it served its purpose as a tree and now will become mulch or firewood.
This tree’s circle of life reminded me of my writing life. Over the summer, my writing life exploded! I wrote every day and I enjoyed playing with words and format. I kept my notebook with me at all times to jot ideas. I wrote with my students and shared openly with them. I was growing as a writer!

As time passed, things changed. I had responsibilities that pulled me from my writing. I was too tired at the end of the day to do anything. I wasn’t feeding my writing life and it was slowly dying; my needles were turning red.

In February, I trimmed some activities and began writing more frequently because a writing hero encouraged me. I wrote daily in March for #SliceofLife. I write several times a week. I am sharing my writing with others again in person, on my own blog, and as a guest blogger. I am growing again. Those red needles are turning green!

This summer, I will keep the circle of my writing life rolling forward. Daily writing. Reconnecting with my writing family. My writing life will grow and thrive, not die and turn into mulch or firewood.

Wendy Chaulk teaches fifth and sixth grades in a looping classroom in Gillette, Wyoming. She is a teacher consultant for the National Writing Project. She has taught professional development writing classes for teachers in her district. If she isn’t reading or writing, you can find her trying to figure out her camera or camping in the mountains. Find Wendy on Twitter @wluvs2teach and follow her blog, Chaulk it Up.

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