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Posts tagged ‘writing’


Taking My Own Advice

As a first-year teacher, I had no idea what I was doing a good majority of the time.  Somehow, someone somewhere thought that I (22 and fresh out of college) was even just a little qualified to teach Social Studies to 7th graders at IS 292 in Brooklyn.  I lasted one whole semester and cried every single day.

When I called my mom to tell her how tough it was and how I was so miserable, she actually laughed at me- hysterically, I might add.  She said, truthfully, “You were the only one who DIDN’T think this would be hard.”  She was right, but my good intentions, hard work, and best efforts were no match against my own inexperience or the school culture that came long before me and lasted long after.

Despite this, I did the best that I could and tried to connect with students in meaningful ways.  I kept my cool and soothed nervous hearts when panicked families fled to the school to get the kids on 9/11; I helped to fight racism and the fear of the “other” in the weeks after after the attacks; I memorized every single name and face; I squeezed in desks for a class that was already well over the legal limit.  Even some of the toughest kids had bright days.

Ultimately, it took one girl with a knife- in my classroom, the safe space that I had created- threatening another to push me past my limit.  The school responded by completely ignoring the situation, and I knew then that there was no way I could keep going.  If I couldn’t keep the kids safe, I certainly couldn’t teach them.

The “little missy from Vermont” (as a colleague, who lasted for an even shorter time than I did, called me at the beginning) was no match for Vermont St., East New York.  I gave my resignation, and at the start of the new semester, I moved on to a different school with a similar population. Because the administration was very supportive, my experience there, though challenging, was much different.  I stayed there a year and a half before leaving for California.

I thought about this today, because I had writer’s block.  I just didn’t have anything to say, but to stay true to my commitment to myself, I needed to post something here.

For some reason, my memory went back to that first semester of teaching at 292.  To throw a little more excitement into the mix, the administration gave me one period a day of Writing.  It’s so sad to write this, but no matter what I did, I could not engage the majority of my students to write.  The only time I was mildly successful was at the very beginning of the period when they were getting settled in.  Each day, I had a prompt or free write for them to complete.  The only real rule in the assignment was that they had to keep writing for the entire time.  Some days in was 5 minutes, but it was never more than 10.

You would have thought that I was asking them to do something unjust, immoral, or downright nasty.  They dug their heals in, but (usually), I convinced them.  “Just write anything, even if it’s ‘I don’t know what to write,’ or write the first thing that comes to your mind,” I bargained with them.  And it worked.  Even the laziest, most stubborn kid would do one of those, and it made the classroom peaceful enough for the other students who were trying to write to think their thoughts.

So today, I just sat down and wrote the first thing that came to my head.  It’s not what showed up here, but it gave my voice a chance to warm up.  At least my advice was useful to someone!

Dream a Little Dream of Me

I haven’t had a lot of brain-space in the last few years to hold much other than the here-and-now.  (Often, I haven’t even held that very well, but that’s a story for another time.)  I have had some good ideas here and there, like Wholesome Hounds, but there hasn’t been much focus on longterm goals or fancy.

Sunday’s daydream was a rare peak into what my mind can accomplish now that I don’t have to be so insanely lasered-in on finances.  Or, more accurately, now that I don’t have to work extremely hard to control my mind and not to freak out about finances all the time.

In it, I was sitting on a stool in front of a small group of people in a bookstore.  I was reading from something I wrote, and people were listening.  To me!  Reading something I wrote!  I was confident and comfortable, and it felt really, really good.

Now, I know this is not real, but it was an exciting step in the right direction.  And since I’m now writing everyday, it’s a dream that is that much closer to becoming a reality.

So Sweet

I LOVE opening presents early and since we were getting an early start on celebrating by going to Sonoma, I got to open some of my gifts on Thursday night.

Along with some chocolates that were soooo tasty, this is what Chris found me:

Panda spirit hood

That was funny and super warm, and we had a fun time playing with it…  but then, this is what his mother, Leigh, did for me:

Writer's Toolbox

I have to admit that I cried a bit when I opened it.  This is what was on the inside:

Contents of said toolbox

How thoughtful and sweet, huh?  I’m really thankful that she is supportive of what I’m trying to do.  And with the toolkit, I’m off to a great start for 33!

And there will be even more tomorrow.  Woo hoo!

Never Better

I have wanted to be a writer my entire life.  Maybe most people who love to read can say that; I not sure.  But guess what I’ve written…  Nothing.

Pen and paper

I haven't written anything!

I mean, I wrote some pretty average research papers in college and a few clever little things in high school.  Back then, I loved the writing assignments that I was given- despite my dad’s eagle eye editing and hours of crying, “Why are you being so mean?  The teacher will know what I mean!”  Honestly, now, I am very thankful for those sessions, because today I’m a pretty good editor and proofreader!

But these days, I don’t even like to write brief emails or thank you letters or postcards when I’m on vacation.  Sitting down and putting words to paper just seems like too daunting of a task.  I took a non-fiction writing class at Stanford several years ago to have some accountability and put so little effort into it that I’m actually a little ashamed to tell about it here.

Dolly Parton says she’s a successful songwriter because she makes sure she creates one song each day.  I had heard the same thing about writing, but I couldn’t get myself to put one word one a page- either electronically or manually.  My mom, Anne, and mother-in-law, Leigh, have been so supportive along the way.  They’ve encouraged me to get going, but I just couldn’t do it.

Maybe because I don’t want to end up looking like muppet:

Dolly Parton

You know what I'm saying!

Seriously though, last July, things changed.  I woke up one morning AND JUST HAD TO WRITE.  It was the same feeling as when I crave water; I needed it.  And I’ve thought about it a lot since then.  I’ve come up with some picture book ideas, read some young adult literature to get into the genre, and tried to read outside my comfort zone in the adult books I’ve picked.  I even took a “Writing for Young Adults” workshop with Leigh during ArtTown in Reno.

Still, no writing.  At all.  Until last Thursday.  That’s when the need turned into something more.  I finally acted on it, and here we are!

I don’t know what finally pushed me over the edge, but I’ve written nine days in a row.  NINE days.  For me to do anything for nine days is pretty remarkable, especially something that is good for me, something that soothes my soul, something that makes me proud…that excites me, that motivates me to do more.

And now, I’m writing all the time in one way or another.  I’m writing when I sit in front of my computer, telling Siri my ideas as I drive (and reading the world’s worst notes later when I’m not in the car).  I haven’t done something with this verve in a long, long time.  And I have to say, I’m liking it.  I’m hooked.  And I’ve never felt better.

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