This has been a long week for me. It is the most I have been out of the house since March and it feels weird. I know that really doesn’t need to be said. It is an often expressed sentiment. I have learned I do prefer to be at home. I like the flexibility of being able to go to school in order to get materials or teach certain lessons.
What are you going to have today during our chat? I will have my normal black coffee. I have cream and sugar if you like. The coffee is hot! I am so glad you joined me for our chat today. I look forward to our time together on the weekends.
If we were having coffee I would tell you I went back to work on Monday. It was a day to work in my classroom. We are in person at the building but are only allowed to be without masks alone in our classroom with the door closed. The kids are attending virtually starting on September 8th. I struggle with the emotions surrounding this return. On one hand, I am glad to be back to a “normal” schedule but there are rules that I do not understand. Tuesday I was on Zoom all day. Literally. It doesn’t make sense to me why I have to be in the building when I was in a Zoom meeting for 7.5 hours. I can get a modified schedule but it has to be pre-approved and COVID related. Wednesday was a work day as well. Honestly, I cannot even remember what I did that day. I know I took down decorations from the last teacher. I put up learning target icons and threw a lot away. At the staff meeting we were told we are not allowed to have any personal furniture in the room. The earliest we will have students is the beginning of November.
There has been little conversation about what the virtual school day will look like. It seems every time we ask it is a slightly different answer. I am used to pivoting and am trying not to worry about what I do not know. I am choosing to deal with the new details as they present themselves.
I also have to go back to my question: How does this serve me? I can hyper focus on work and not get distracted. I have all my materials in one place. I will keep thinking on this path.
It is also confusing because on some of the days the meetings did not start until 8, but then I was required to be at school til 4pm. This was not clearly indicated and on two of those days I was there at 7:30 a.m. I am glad I only live 10 minutes away from my building but with all the change this is another irritant.
If we were having coffee I would tell you I started my day with the normal routine of writing and coffee first. This helps me start the day the right way for me.
If we were having coffee I would tell you I walked several times this week, but had to do it after school. It was hot this week. Dinners were the latest they have been all year as well.
If we were having coffee I would tell you it seems like a lot happened this week but there isn’t much to write about. I feel like the life that fueled me this week was after the afternoon hit 3:30 or later.
If we were having coffee I would tell you I started my Story Intensive class this week. We did introductions within the small class of 8. There were a masterclass for us to listen to and some lessons on freewriting. I will post my week 1 assignment later today.
If we were having coffee I would tell you I was on a celebration call for my Write Free class from Caroline Donahue. It was such a wonderful class and I recommend anything she does. She is offering the class again. She also does IG lives every Friday morning which are worth the time to tune in.
If we were having coffee I would tell you I received three letters this week! I was so excited to get happy mail.
If we were having coffee I would tell you I was a bit more vulnerable newsletter. I know I need to tell more of my story and why I do what I do. I was asked again this weekend, “How do you get so much writing done?” I plan to examine this idea and others more in depth in my newsletter. If you haven’t signed up yet, you can here.
Two Writing Teachers run the Slice of Life tag ever Tuesday, where readers and writers are encouraged to write and share something about their life or day. You can check out the tag here.
Yesterday, was the first day back to school officially. The label was work day.
Delights of the Day
I coached a client through text
I connected with writer and educator friends
I found a word wall feature in a Bitmoji classroom I was perusing
I listened to some great podcasts while I went through files and books.
I connected with my kindergarten team who are amazing women!
I ordered bulletin board sets and remembered there was a time I couldn’t afford to buy much for my classroom. I spent hours cutting out items early in my career to decorate. During student teaching when I had no money I folded over packing tape 3/4ths and adhered it to a large sheet of cardboard to make a pocket chart. I remembered I have come a long way in knowledge and experience.
I got my SMART board to work
During my lunch time I revised my novel and gave myself a sticker
My classroom is a few steps closer to being acceptable for teaching and learning
Every August there is the feeling like air is slowly leaking out of a balloon. As each day ticks by on the calendar we get closer to the first day of school.
How do you get ready?
This year the world is not the same which is the perfect opportunity for you to create a new kick ass ritual. You need a series of actions that lead to going back to the school year.
I use EL education materials and one aspect of this curriculum is CREW. Crew is the term EL uses which I used to call Family Meeting. It is time about learning and relationships. A book was released and I ordered it right away. It should be here by Monday!
Back to school shopping: In order to be a happy writer and teacher I need supplies. I have many friends that do not even have kids who are thrilled all the supplies are displayed in the middle of all the stores.
I am going to buy some new school shoes. It goes back to going shopping with my grandparents. A new outfit too.
I will also search the names of my new students (when they are available!) I keep checking.
I will plan the first week of school and start making my massive pile of read alouds.
Another thing I am doing this year to connect my personal passions with my professional ones is starting a Patreon. I kept trying to figure out how to serve my readers and people in my professional circle in a streamlined way. I have been saying lately that my offerings are for “Teachers and Friends of Teachers”. It makes for the most interesting group and mix of life giving conversations.
There are 142 days left in 2020. I have going to do a #100writingpromptproject for the last 100 days. My supporters will get access to a daily prompt, an exclusive community, and write in times to get together with others.
I also am expanding my coaching services and workshops. Now all the information for my events will be in one place. I am super excited!
What Lists to Keep to Move Your Instruction Forward
I am a list keeper.
There is satisfacton in making a checklist and completing the list.
I keep lists in my paper planner and also in my Google Keep app. Keep is on my phone and also provides a checkbox option. I can also transfer any note to a Google Doc. New learning from the last two weeks is that I can share a note with another person. This means personal notes I can share with my teacher gmail account so I have access and edit ability for everything.
For teaching , I toggle back and forth between my planner and what I call the “Rose Binder”. The rose binder is the place I put all the important things. It is where I keep student data before it ends up in the spreadsheet, lists, papers I need to not lose in the abyss of my desk, etc. Why rose binder? The binder I use has a clear sleeve for the cover where I add pictures I like. Many years ago I found a picture of a bouquet of roses from Victoria Magazine which I placed in the front. Voila!
Lists calm my mind because I know important actions have been captured and I do not have to use brain power to repeat things to myself. Lists keep me sane.
For me, my teacher lists ensure I do not lose or forget anything. With as many decisions that need to be made moment to moment this simple tool keeps me focused and on track.
Where To Keep Your Lists
In the back of your paper planner (I use the Passion Planner)
Important Paper Binder (My Rose Binder)
Post it notes (that you adhere to the paper planner or the binder)
Teacher Lists I Keep
For writing instruction
Education article ideas to write
Things to Remember for the Next School year
I add to this list all year – this is where the lightbulb moments for changes to a lesson get logged, the resources you want to add later to a unit, materials you need to make or find, systems to begin, things to let go of, etc.
Things to Buy for my Classroom
Picture Books I need
I buy a lot from thrift stores and Goodwill
Borrow from Library
DMO for school
Project Ideas to Do with Students
Current ones for me: mini gardens using toilet paper rolls, Kindness project, Books for me to write for kids, and Books for the World
Other Lists I Keep
To do for the day
Topic lists to research
Lists of 10 impressions I have noticed within the day
Short Story ideas
Articles to read later
Places to publish
Funny phrases the kids say
Anything I want to remember
DMO (see below)
I keep a list called the DMO – Daily Method of Operation. This is the list you keep that is the minimum for you to have a successful day that comes from Tony Robbins. One thing I have learned recently is that success is subjective. I will also tell you I have been thinking a lot about fulfillment vs achievement.
What is my DMO list you ask?
What are Your Lists?
What are the most important lists you keep? I would love to hear in the comments!
I am the type of person that thrives on action. I am always thinking and planning and using up all my energy by the end of the day is my goal. I use up the energy by pursuing things that light me up. This is my soul work. The question I ask myself is often, “How can I do this [insert action] at a level 10?” Level 10 is the best I can be at that moment.
But the last couple of days I have been mentally tired. I cannot focus. I cannot read for more than a couple of minutes. To leverage this feeling, I examined how I need to rest and rejuvenate. My rest doesn’t look like other people’s I have learned over the years. In the past, I also have not done this well.
I read the other day that if you have decided to rest yet you are worried about what you are not accomplishing then you are doing it wrong.
What does rest look like to you?
Sometimes rest or slowing down is the way to refuel your mind and creativity.
I love data and research so of course I used my Enneagram type to look up ways to rejuvenate. Some of the ways I listed in my Passion Planner:
Enjoy morning routine and coffee ritual
Fold towels (or some other mundane task)
Help someone learn something
Bask in the sun
Listen to a podcast
Be the gift fairy
I execute Level 10 well when I am thinking about my mission. I do not always do so well with the rest side of the coin.
For example, I am the type of woman who moves every day. I have been doing a daily walk/run depending on how I feel for over 70 days now. I know it doesn’t always have to be an intense walk. In order to rest, I need to walk at a slower pace and enjoy the scenery. I need to not be in a hurry to get to the next thing or to be done. I need to enjoy the moment. If I am compelled to run, I run. But if I am going to do rest at a Level 10 there is likely to just be walking.
Planning for the day or the week can be rejuvenating for me because I anticipate obstacles which then calms my mind. I can marinate on how I can show up at a level 10 for them all.
Writing is always rejuvenating for me.
What is your soul work? Where are you putting your energy?
Reading: I reread “Cuisine des Mémoires” by N.K. Jemisin just to enjoy it. It doesn’t mean that if I want to write down a favorite line it is not rest. I just have to pay attention to how I feel.
I know I need a rest day because I have been frustrated the last couple of days and cannot pinpoint why.
I have to pay attention.
I delight in the butterflies and the grasshoppers. the mama horse that takes the apple from me. The collage technique I play with.
Sometimes rest doesn’t look like laying around.
What what does rest look like during COVID? There are still many areas of the nation that are in lockdown. Many people I know do not leave their houses unless it is necessary. Zoom can be just as exhausting as a string of social obligations.
Rest may look different now to you since the world is different. Sometimes it can be hard to rest when there are too many people in the house, especially if they are on a different schedule than you are.
What does your ideal rest look like to you today? How can you make at least one thing from that list happen?
I have been thinking about things I have done in the past that I enjoy but have been neglecting. One of which is playing with collages. I have been inspired by Austin Kleon and his tape collages on Instagram. I also have been missing letter writing. I have a few friends I snail mail occasionally but I have resubscribed to The Letter Exchange. It is a magazine and forwarding service for letter writers. You can read more about it here.
I challenge you to find a new way to rest today – even if it doesn’t look like anyone else’s.
Let me know what you come up with in the comments!
I have been able to attend several writing conferences through my work over the years. One that had profound impact on me was the writers at work hosted by Ruth Culham in Sun Valley Idaho. I did not know the landscape could be so beautiful in a place I associate with potatoes. This education celebrity met with her small circle of authors every year to plan workshops for the year. Then she opened it up to other educators. The travel there had been adventurous for me with a small plane flying through a thunderstorm. It reminded me of the first time I was on a plane when I was 6 years old.
One of the speakers was Ralph Fletcher. He talked about how all teacher needed to be a writer with a lowercase w. The only difference between a writer with a capital and lowercase w is that capital w writers get paid. If you write, you are a writer.
As teachers, we need our students to learn to write in order to express themselves. I have found through my coaching and my own education experience that writing scares the hell out of most people. There is not a lot of instruction in writing in teacher prep courses. Why would you expect your students to do something that you are unwilling to do?
My Action List:
Unpack the Text
Learn Through Your Ears
Write in the Edges
Join a group of creatives or writers
Ray Bradbury said readone poem a night, one short story a night, one essay a night, for the next 1,000 nights.
This is his formula for an MFA. It works.
It is impossible to not be a better writer if you follow this formula. Read what you like from authors you like. It does not have to be any way connected to the grade level you teach.
Essays: Natalie Goldberg, Ray Bradbury, Zadie Smith, David Sedaris, Roxane Gay
Short stories: Nancy Stohlman, Kathy Fish, Neil Gaiman, Kelly Link
Poems: Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Naomi Shihab Nye
Unpack The Text
When you read a piece you particularly write then study it. Ask yourself these questions:
What works in this piece and how does it make me feel?
How did the author achieve this feeling in me?
What are my favorite lines?
What can I try in my own writing that the author does?
Action: Write something inspired by the text you studied.
Learn Through Your Ears
One of the ways I take advantage of extra time is to listen to podcasts. I love writing podcasts in particular. I listen to podcasts mostly in the car and during workouts. There is a rotation but I always learn something.
Why is This Good? Naples Writers’ Workshop
How Do You Write? Rachael Herron
The Writers Well Podcast J Thorn and Rachael Herron
How Writers Write
Stop Writing Alone Nicole Rivera
Qwerty Marion Roach Smith
Fierce Womxn Writing
Good Life Project
Any podcast with Karissa Kouchis as a guest.
I also like audio courses. I have been listening to Tony Robbins and his Personal Power 30 day program and his Beautiful State training.
Listen to what fuels you and write down the memories and stories that come to mind as you listen. Write about those ideas.
Write in the Edges
I learned a long time ago that if I want to make sure I do something, I have to schedule it.
Write now, open your planner/schedule and plan a 10 minute writing time for the next 7 days.
During that time write:
Whatever comes to mind
The story about one of your notes
A reflection of a favorite line from something you read
A new story based on a title of something you have read
Anything in response to a journal prompt
How you are feeling in that moment
My advice is also to carry a notebook and write down ideas that strike you, an overhead conversation, an interesting detail, a 5 senses description of where you are throughout the day. I strive for at least 10 snippets a day.
If you don’t like the notebook use a note taking app on your phone. I am partial to Google Keep. It backs itself up (I lost a whole note app full of gems I can never get back – a whole other story.) You can share notes and also easily make it a Google Doc. You can also use voice to text in this app which works for me when walking or driving. If you run and try to talk there are weird connections of words the device will pick up!
Challenges give me a structure and a schedule. There are small challenges and large ones but I gravitate to 30 day or 100 challenges. Some examples are: Storyaday May and September, NANOWRIMO, #the100dayproject, Five Minute Friday (FMF), and Two Writing Teachers blogging.
Storyaday: This challenge is hosted by Julie Duffy and it is just what it sounds like: one story a day for the month of May and/or September. I have challneged my middle school students to do this challenge as well.
NANOWRIMO: National Novel Writing month. This challenge is to write a 50,000 word manuscript in the month of November.
#the100dayproject: A creative challenge that starts at the beginning of April. The artist creates something every day. In 2020, I wrote a random sentence every day and am creating a short story based on these sentences. Some people do post it note drawings, or doodles, or paintings, or 100 word essays, or poems. It is up to you!
FMF: Hosted by Kate Motaung Kate posts a word on Friday with a great visual. You write with this word for five minutes.
Two Writing Teachers Blog: Every Tuesday, teacher writers post on their own blogs and link up on the TWT blog. In March there is a daily blog challenge where there is support and lots of comments.
Join A Group
There are lots of groups to choose from. Lots of time if you take a class or workshop you can find people you want to continue to talk to after the course is over. There are many writing groups online that are more public like Twitter and Instagram.
There are communities you can join such as Storyaday Superstars, Ninja Writers, Sarah Selecky Writing School, Teachwrite, and Jackie Aston. Almost every author you follow has a connection to a community somewhere. I found Storyaday by Googling several years ago. Find your people!
The point is you want to find a group that is nourishing to you. Some are paid, some are free but you may have to try a few before you find the one where you fit.
After you try one or all six of these ideas, your brain will start to make connections to how this translates to your classroom. It can even be one of the things you write about during your scheduled 10 minutes.
If you write, you are a writer.
Your students will listen to you more as a model of being a writer rather than being someone who just talks about writing. There must be action.
Next Right Step
Make a change in your writing life today. Write something. Buy a notebook and a pen you like.
Think about a time you were teaching and you CRUSHED it! It was one of those lessons that went so perfect you wish you would have taped it or that your principal was in the back of the room frantically writing the notes of how brilliant your classroom is.
What were you doing? What had you done before the lesson began? What are your students doing? What were you saying to yourself?
What were you wearing? Where were you standing? Did you have a Powerpoint? What materials were out?
Get yourself back into that moment. See it in your mind’s eye and feel what it felt to be in that moment.
I have several moments that I like to come back to from my 25 years as an educator. One is from early in my teaching career when I was teaching first grade. We had gathered on the floor in a circle to share our writing journals. I had established a clear rhythm of family meeting that ended with a read aloud and then we wrote a group chart and then students wrote independently. I sat in the circle with everyone and had given the directions that someone would read and then we would ask questions about what was not clear and then also tell the writer what we loved about the writing.
I started the activity and guided the first couple of writers and the comments. Then my kids took over. They asked each other questions and took turns like expert writer workshop participants. I was awed. I slowly backed out of the circle because they didn’t need me. I watched as my students gave helpful feedback and suggestions. The writers knew the piece was still theirs and if they didn’t like the feedback they didn’t have to use it. I was so proud of my little students. My heart was so full that day.
I can literally tap into this experience because I have associated it within my physiology by my right hand tapping on my upper chest, right under my neck. I can get back to this moment by triggering the memory with the hand motion. I know young students are capable of doing great things because I have seen it. Even if I haven’t seen it with my own eyes I know I can find studies and stories from other teachers who have with their students. I can piggy back off their experience to fuel my own.
Over the next few weeks, I am creating a teacher identity that exemplifies what I want to accomplish this school year no matter what it looks like.
Here are some of the questions I am asking myself:
What adjectives would you use to describe yourself as a level 10 teacher?
What outcomes do you want to consistently create over the school year?
What actions do you need to take to ensure those outcomes are reached?
One of the delights of living somewhere new is all the fresh running routes you get to embark on! Thanks to my husband, I was able to walk/run on a new route with wonderful hills. (See the tall one pictured above.) The weather was much less humid and was overcast yesterday so overall it was a pleasant session. I also saw my assistant principal and we were able to chat for a few minutes as well.
Along this route there is also a playground in one of the neighborhoods. I could not resist the delight of swinging for a few minutes. The smile on my face was wide and I felt like a kid. There also happens to be a free little library there as well.
One of the focuses for this week has been centered around play. I want to take advantage of the small opportunities that bring me joy. I have always loved swings, and I do not know a child that doesn’t like them either. We used to have jumping contests and height contests in elementary school. For a short time I thought about putting a plank swing in my living room in one of my apartments! I am certain that wasn’t practical and it would cost me my security deposit for sure.
What opportunities for play have you taken advantage of lately? What has been bringing you joy?
Several days ago I wrote a post called, “The Delight of Connections,” about wanting to connect with a specific type of educator. You can read that here. Luckily, I have this community of teacher writers and it has changed my life for the better. I am so glad to know there are so many teacher writers out there. There are friends that I see their names or the names of their blog and I know I am in for a reading treat, especially on Tuesdays.
Lately, I have felt a bit lost. There is uncertainty that every one feels hovering around the next couple of weeks. I struggle with how I feel about it. I never shy away from hard work or new learning. I thrive on growth, but I cannot wrap my head around the details to plan because I have none.
When I am uncertain I try to find other people who are doing it better than I am. I learn from everyone I interact with. This was the reasoning behind the post: to find someone in a similar situation to find some solutions and validation. The post was liked, but there were no comments. That sometimes happens of course. Not every post we write resonates with someone and compels them to respond.
Sunday a friend reached out in text and we started talking. As a coach, I went into her room frequently. She is one of those teachers I love working with because her teaching light is so bright. Every time it was a joy to enter her room. Her kids learned and were happy to do it. They were fun and had humor in their room. I listened to them perform their readers theatre just after winter break and the students were amazing and expressive. I will never forget that day.
This friend mentioned she knew one of the ladies that had applied for my job when I left. Through the text conversation I learned she was teaching fifth grade but had been a coach and a kindergarten teacher in the duration of her career! This new connection and I had an amazing conversation over Instagram.
If there is something you are seeking, ask. You never know how the answer will show up for you. I remained open to it and am pleased with this new connection. I thought it would come from the blog. It is a delight it came through a random conversation with a friend who doesn’t even know I have a blog! Be open to what comes. I love it when our needs are provided for in such unexpected ways.
Have you experienced Synchronicity lately? I would love to hear about it.