End of Year Thoughts #SOL20

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Every week on Llama Tuesday I write a post and share it on the Two Writing Teachers blog.

Here are the rules:

WRITE a slice of life story on your own blog.
SHARE a link to your post in the comments section.
GIVE comments to at least three other SOLSC bloggers.

I have chosen to focus on the blessings of 2020 rather than the alternative.

Reframing is a skill I learned more about from Teach Like a Champion in education that I have applied in all areas of my life. During 2020 I trained with Tony Robbins and Karissa Kouchis and came back to the idea that my life happens for me and not to me. I have had this attitude most of my life but 2015-2019 were some rough years for me when I forgot.

Yes, there has been challenges and death in my life. I have learned to pivot even faster than I had in the past.

We are down to 3 days left in 2020. I have 3 more writing prompts to publish til the end of my #100writingpromptsproject. I have been joyously planning my next projects all this week on my walks.

2020 was the year of the pivot. I had to learn more about virtual teaching but had confidence going in. Most of my best friendships are with people I have never spent time with in real life. I know that strong relationships and learning can happen on Zoom because it was already part of my life. I also have participated in so many free or low cost writing classes over 2020 because of the generosity of teachers all over the world. Taking what I learn from these experiences and applied to my every day teaching makes me happier.

I learned from people around me. I went to Unleash the Power Within from Tony Robbins in July which was online for the first time. Tony Robbins at first didn’t think it was possible to do his events on Zoom but guess what? He figured it out. (He also built an incredible stage to run it from but that is another story.)

It is a whole different kind of exhaustion to be in front of a computer all day while teaching and attending meetings – this is a fact. It is also a reminder that we need to take care of ourselves. There are advantages to teaching online – my kids know their sight words better than any other year. They are more focused during lessons because they are watching me on the screen and they feel like I am talking right to them.

My word of the year came to me and I tried to ignore it for awhile but it persisted and won. My word for 2021 is PUSH. I have lots of plans (and secret plots) brewing already for the new year. There is a certain ceremony for the changing of the month and the year – especially in kindergarten! It is a fresh start and exciting.

There are a lot of things I am going to let go of this year. I have been hanging onto to them for so long and it is time.

I am also going to be open and allow things to come into my life. I have goals and intentions of course but sometimes things come into our life in a much different way than expected – and sometimes that is even better.

Building my own circle of people I associate consistently with is a focus of mine this year. I am always learning from life giving conversation and have to create these experiences in a different way now! I am beginning my PUSH groups on January 4th (which are FREE!). The first one is on journaling and if you would like to join in the fun and learn 3 ways I journal to better writing then please click here.

Everything I have learned has brought me to right here. It is a good place to be!

Tuesday Walking Thoughts #SOL20

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Every week on Llama Tuesday I write a blog post and share it on the Two Writing Teachers blog. Then I comment on at least 3 other posts.

Here are the rules:

WRITE a slice of life story on your own blog.
SHARE a link to your post in the comments section.
GIVE comments to at least three other SOLSC bloggers.

We are down to 9 days left in 2020. I have 9 more writing prompts to publish til the end of my #100writingpromptsproject. I can hardly believe it or how fun it has been!

One of the delights of winter break is that I can take my walks in the morning, which means sunshine. My body prefers to walk in the morning rather than after school. Today I walked 13 miles and was positively giddy about it.

I listened to the MFA Podcast which I love about writing (A new episode came out today.) I did a Tara Brach meditation. I made notes about writing.

But I also thought about my grandmother and some complicated feelings around her and current circumstances. Grief and lost things were on my mind too. It is always surprising to me when there is a domino effect of memory. One leads to the next like a “if you read this you’ll like this” list. Or a recommended list from the memory before. This ripple can send me into a spiral of not pleasant memories fast. A thought of a loss falls into another one and into another.

In addition to this memory parade, I have been dealing with other pain. Physical pain is not something I typically have to deal with even when I was a long distance runner. Lately, I start my walks with my muscles all balled up and it can take two miles before I feel my body relax.

On a different note, on my mind today was also a writing prompt that stuck with me about a desk and an egg metaphor. I reflected on the year and how I can use what I know to help others or save them time.

I learned about Chalene Johnson’s tradition of 10 envelopes. Her family writes letters and includes a monetary gift in an envelope and then hands them to strangers on an outing for the purpose of distribution. They hand the envelopes to people with the phrase: Here is a gift for you, Merry Christmas. In November in years past I have had students write anonymous letters to adults in the school thanking them for something specific. I have been the anonymous gift fairy. This 10 envelope idea intrigues me and I plan to make it my own.

I am thankful for the time and less obligations this week. I will continue to carve out time to read and write and simply rest.

Also, my flash story was published in Gone Lawn yesterday. Click here to read it. One of the most influential teachers was my orchestra director who taught me from 6th grade to 12th. This (mostly) true story was inspired by him and my love of music.

What are you thinking today?

Wrap Up #SOL20

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Every week on Llama Tuesday I write a blog post and share it on the Two Writing Teachers blog. Then I comment on at least 3 other posts.

Here are the rules:

WRITE a slice of life story on your own blog.
SHARE a link to your post in the comments section.
GIVE comments to at least three other SOLSC bloggers.

There are 16 days left in 2020 which means I have 16 more writing prompts to publish. Do you have plans for the last 16 days?

Today’s Prompt

This month I hosted a Bradbury Trio Challenge. For people who signed up, I sent 5 days of emails that curated a list of a short story, a poem, and an essay. Ray Bradbury talked about reading as a way to fuel your writing. In order to write better you needed to read every night for 1,000 nights.

It was a popular challenge and it was fun for me to pull together. I was able to share some of my favorite pieces with others. Searching for the things to read can be more time consuming than the reading time some days!

As a wrap up for the challenge I had a Zoom meeting to discuss the challenge. This call was life giving conversation and I am so glad I hosted it! There was a variety of responses to the challenge. Some people read more than others , which was to be expected with the time of year and state of the world. Everyone noticed different things.

One writer used a line from a poem to writer her own story.

One writer found a collection of short stories she would have not read before.

One writer analyzed what she liked to read and how that showed up in her writing.

One writer admitted that if I had not hand selected one of the stories she would have never read it all the way through. She did and ended up loving the story!

They all gave me great suggestions on how to move forward with the next version of the trio I create.

This call was just what I needed yesterday. A conversation connecting reading and writing and how I could help was what I needed on a Monday evening.

I also had books delivered yesterday which was an added bonus!

Currently, I am reading The All Night Sun by Diane Zinna

The All-Night Sun: A Novel by [Diane Zinna]

I also have Wild Milk by Sabrine Orah Mark

Wild Milk by [Sabrina Mark]

The 2021 Best American Short Stories and my Book of the Month December selection

The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans

I am set for reading for at least a week! HA! Good thing holiday break is coming up.

What are you reading?

How Are You Feeling? #SOL20

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Every week on Llama Tuesday I write a blog post and share it on the Two Writing Teachers blog. Then I comment on at least 3 other posts.

Here are the rules:

WRITE a slice of life story on your own blog.
SHARE a link to your post in the comments section.
GIVE comments to at least three other SOLSC bloggers.

There are 23 days left in 2020 which means I have 23 more writing prompts to publish. Do you have plans for the last 23 days?

How are you feeling? is a question I don’t like very much. Honestly, I am not sure I am always sure how to answer. I have learned to suppress and ignore my feelings all my life. My brain works at a high rate of speed and often I have many emotions at once and sometimes they conflict. That fact also makes it hard to answer what seems like a simple inquiry that we SHOULD know the answer to.

As I was walking this week I revisited the podcast Just the Right Book. I had to stop listening to reading podcasts because my TBR got so out of control it was overwhelming. I came upon an episode about the book Permission to Feel by a Yale professor.

Many people I have been learning from over the last year about emotions say, “Honor your feelings” “Feel them.” “All emotions are ok.”

Yes, in theory.

But tell someone you are close to you are sad and they will tell you that you shouldnt be.

Or tell someone you are upset and someone will defend the others actions to try to talk you out of it.

No wonder we don’t know how we feel.

When I was upset as a child, I was often offered ice cream. Someone’s situation was always worse so I got the feeling I didn’t have the right to feel that way. It wasn’t all the time but the stories started forming early about how to deal with emotions or rather NOT deal with them.

So as a teacher, I have to be careful to honor the feelings of my little people. They don’t have to be happy all the time – nor is that realistic. Sometimes they are angry. But I have to give space for them to be able to talk to them about it. I do breathing and sharing at the start of every class and yesterday I added the question, How are you feeling?

I am looking forward to reading more about this research and being able to react to the answers to this question in a smarter way but honoring they have feelings and giving them space to express them is a good start.

I feel like this book came to me at just the right time on my journey and I am thankful. Maybe I will learn not to detest this question after all!

How do you feel about this question? And is your usual answer, “Fine”?

Avoidance of I #SOL20

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Every week on Llama Tuesday I write a blog post and share it on the Two Writing Teachers blog. Then I comment on at least 3 other posts.

Here are the rules:

WRITE a slice of life story on your own blog.
SHARE a link to your post in the comments section.
GIVE comments to at least three other SOLSC bloggers.

There are 31 days left in 2020 which means I have 31 more writing prompts to publish. Do you have plans for the last 31 days?

I sit in my living room getting prepared to go to the building to work by the light of the Christmas tree.

Yesterday I had a writing conversation with a friend and we were talking about craft. I read a piece yesterday that started too many sentences that began with “I”. It was distracting and took me out of the piece.

All the years I have taught, I have loved to teach writing. I am sure it had something to do with the fact that deep down I want to be a full time writer but that was not an acceptable career choice in my family. I figured that teaching writing was the next best thing.

Teaching kindergarteners to write is a amazing because they have little prior experience.

One of the things I do is avoid having my K student write sentences that begin with “I”. What ends up happening is that later when they are writing more you get pages of “I” statements.

I like dogs.

I like to swim.

I love my mom.

It sounds all the same.

Sentence fluency is something I start with so that is the skill that becomes the habit and not the list of I statements that I would have to try to break later. As often as we can, our shared writing sentences begin with any other word.

Yesterday we learned the sight word GO so the sentences we wrote were:

We go camping. and

We go outside.

Details now are in the illustrations where lots of academic feedback is given. I have also taught them how to give feedback to each other. They discuss what they are writing outloud and then cues are picked up by other students.

In my live class you will often hear: “W. said he is adding a sun. I think that is a good idea and am adding one too.”

or

“I like the way A. added details to his butterfly. I am adding some to mine. He reminded me.”

Of course, one of my favorite questions is: Is it time for writing YET?

What have you noticed about teaching writing this year? I would love to hear in the comments.

High/Low/Learn #SOL20

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Every week on Llama Tuesday I write a blog post and share it on the Two Writing Teachers blog. Then I comment on at least 3 other posts.

Here are the rules:

WRITE a slice of life story on your own blog.
SHARE a link to your post in the comments section.
GIVE comments to at least three other SOLSC bloggers.

There are 38 days left in 2020 which means I have 38 more writing prompts to publish. Do you have plans for the last 38 days?

One of my obsessions lately has been journaling prompts. I even found a couple of podcasts dedicated to journaling. On an episode of Writing Your Best Self I heard a writer talk about logging the high of the day, the low and what you have learned.

I follow this method similarly with my energy challenge that comes from the author of The Third Door. I log what fueled my energy, what drained it and what I learned from those observations.

I was reminded of a protocol I learned at the EL Education conference last year in October called HIGH/LOW/BUFFALO. In this version, you share a high and a low and something completely out of left field! Some people need some prodding in order to be silly sometimes. It helps to get to know people in a hurry.

My day of working from home has just started but here is mine so far (Subject to change by the evening)

High: Wellness of my family and it snowed!

Low: I was woken up early by loud vehicles driving by

Buffalo: I learned today that pickled carrots are a thing and I am writing about them!

What are yours?

I would love to hear in the comments!

Need Some Inspiration?

A List and Some Thoughts for You Today

One of my favorite short story authors is Amber Sparks. She posted today on social media her book was on this list from Bustle.

Normally, I scroll through and only click on one or two selections but there was something about this list that drew me in.

I put 5 of the collections on my holds list from the library. I already have read Amber’s book (which I HIGHLY recommend). Another one I have checked out from the library right now and am currently reading:

Another one of the collections is from Nicole Krauss who is a fantastic novel writer. Her sentences are beautiful. The overall description of the short story collection didn’t grab me but my knowledge of her writing style is enough for me to check it out.

Other thoughts:

Short stories are great if your time or attention is clipped since you can hold the whole story in your head at once.

They are great models if you are a writer for how to get a beginning, middle, and end in a short space.

Because the form requires words to not be wasted usually there are gems of lines to take out for quote lists and writing prompts.

Happy Reading!

Writing Retreat Day

Today is a treat for me…writing retreat day at home!

Photo by Kate Trifo on Pexels.com

Today I will write 2750 words in preparation for NANOWRIMO and the Million Words IN a YEAR challenge.

Today I will walk (likely in the rain).

Today I will host a write in and chat with my friends.

Today I will nap (if I feel like it).

Today I will write in different areas of the house.

I have a list of projects I want to come back to. One of which is a story set in New Orleans based on my trip there. I have prompts to schedule and posts to make for my short story intensive.

I have my white noise soundtrack going of a fireplace.

Today I will look through my new LEX magazine that came in the mail yesterday and write a letter.

Today I will read Nancy Stohlman’s new flash fiction book that I finally got in the mail yesterday!

I will make scrambled eggs and toast and enjoy every bite.

I may even dance around the house.

What will you write and delight in today?

Weekend Coffee Share

A Cup of Coffee and a Conversation

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

Welcome back to the weekend!

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.

How was your week?

What inspired you?

Until our next coffee share! Be safe!

Official Back to School #SOL20

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

What were the delights in your day?