Six Ways To Be A Better Writing Teacher

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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:

  1. Bradbury Challenge
  2. Unpack the Text
  3. Learn Through Your Ears
  4. Write in the Edges
  5. Challenges
  6. Join a group of creatives or writers

Bradbury Challenge

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Ray Bradbury said read one 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.

recommendations:

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:

  1. What works in this piece and how does it make me feel?
  2. How did the author achieve this feeling in me?
  3. What are my favorite lines?
  4. 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.

Favorite Podcasts:

  1. Why is This Good? Naples Writers’ Workshop
  2. How Do You Write? Rachael Herron
  3. The Writers Well Podcast J Thorn and Rachael Herron
  4. How Writers Write
  5. Stop Writing Alone Nicole Rivera
  6. Qwerty Marion Roach Smith
  7. Fierce Womxn Writing
  8. Good Life Project
  9. 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:

  1. A memory
  2. Whatever comes to mind
  3. The story about one of your notes
  4. A reflection of a favorite line from something you read
  5. A new story based on a title of something you have read
  6. Morning Pages
  7. Anything in response to a journal prompt
  8. 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

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.

Connection

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.

Your students will thank you.

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Fire #SOL20

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It is summer. It is the season for heat. Wisconsin has been providing temperatures in the 90’s the last couple of weeks. It doesn’t stop me from action whether that be writing or running.

What is getting you fired up?

As always, I am doing a lot of things at once. It is how I work. After much deliberation to what the right time was I put together a collection of my short stories for Amazon. You can find that here.

Why Is Life So Hard?: A Short Story Collection by [Tammy L.  Breitweiser]

I am fired up about my health. I am eating healthier, following a plan that works for me and settling into a lifestyle rather than a diet.

I am fired about about school in the fall. I am learning about what e-learning should look like (just in case) and working on activities and units for my K kids.

I am fired about writing. Daily writing and working with my communities is exciting. I am listening to podcasts, rereading Big Magic, and taking notes on my walks and runs. I am finding new podcasts.

One I will recommend is Cutting Chai Stories. You can find that here.

Cutting Chai Stories

You can now listen to my podcast on Spotify too.

With my coaching program, I am doing lots of work around identity. This is working for me in a career sense and also a writing sense. Lots of exploration for me and thinking.

Lots of exciting things happening in this season of summer. I am trying to get as much joy as possible!

What is firing you up?

Birthday Coffee Share

A Cup of Coffee and a Conversation

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It’s the weekend again! Let’s go sit out on the porch and have our coffee. It is such a nice day. It has been a busy week for me and we have lots to talk about today! I have black coffee as always, but we bought some creamer that is delightful if you like something sweet today.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I went to the dentist this week. It was a risk for me. A power move, if you will. Due to COVID-19 and precautions I was not able to have the full visit that I needed, but there are appointments scheduled for what is needed. I did need a crown. Apparently, I do not grind my teeth but I press them together so hard I broke two teeth. These two are in addition to one I already cracked that was previously fixed.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you my Back to Zero plan is on track. I am moving every day, fasting, and have a clear vision of where I want to go! Clothes are starting to fit that have not in a long time.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I am excited to announce the podcast went up on time this week. Continuing the birthday theme, I talked about the birthday tarot card reading I did. If you want to listen you can go here. Hopefully soon the podcast will be on Spotify.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I began my video series on my blog called “5 Minute Coach”. Here I am sharing a teaching tip or activity from my education life. You can check out the first one about my story auctions here.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I was inspired by Liara Tamani and her podcast interview on Fierce Womxn Writing. She talked about The Book Of Delights by Ross Gay. I started writing about my own daily delights. If you want to get a flavor of how I write about this check out this piece I wrote about Sundays. Liara and I are birthday twins too so that is exciting.Sunday DelightA Reflection of Daily Delightsmedium.com

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I have been doodling in my notebooks again and I love it. The new pens my youngest son bought me for my birthday are perfect for adding a bit of color too. It makes writing time even more special. I am thankful for doodle accounts I follow on Instagram and Pinterest to keep the ideas brewing.

If we were having coffee I would tell you one of my delights this week was driving. I was able to listen to my podcasts and think about writing. Kathy Fish sponsors a reunion for the alumni of her classes and that is this weekend. It is nice to see familiar names. I am also starting a new writing class on Monday which I am thrilled about.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I continue my streak of writing every day. I have been transcribing my Selecky prompt into the forum and have been getting some nice comments. There is a group that seems to be forming there.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you this week was full of input and learning. I am examining the areas of my life where I need more knowledge and taking lots of action to close that gap.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you Saturday is the summer solstice. How will you take advantage of the most sunlight? Delight in the rays and warmth my friend!

I would love to hear about your week!

Weekend Coffee Share

A Cup of Coffee and a Conversation

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Welcome back to Sunday — this time on a holiday weekend!

Let’s have some french vanilla on the porch. The view of the hills is lovely and it isn’t too hot yet today.

I have missed you this week friend. There is lots to catch up on.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I have been obsessed with Karissa Kouchis this week. She is a national trainer and speaker for Tony Robbins and her energy is contagious. Her words have sprung me to action this week.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you this quote showed up in my Readwise app email this morning:

How to Live a Good Life by Jonathan Fields


Step 1 — Create your perfect moment. Take a few moments and ask, “What would I love to do or create or have that I’m not pursuing because it’s not a sure thing?” Write your answer in your journal. Then ask, “What would my life look and feel like, how would it be materially different, if I got what I wanted?” Journal your answer. Now ask, “What am I waiting for?” Write it out.

It seems like a good task to do today.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I learned about the Dickens Pattern. It is where you analyze the price you will pay if you don’t change now. It comes from the idea of Scrooge and The Christmas Carol with the Ghost of Christmas Past. It is not a pretty list of journaling but it is motivating. Telling yourself “It’s not that bad” keeps you stuck.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you the last couple of days we have been having fun with the kids with Kahoot games and Jeopardy. I log funny things the kids say and use that list to make questions. We also have strange categories of facts about planets, music, or sports. The wrong answer choices are sometimes the funniest part. There is lots of laughing.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you we have had great food this week! Food is a joy and a reason for gathering in our home. Favorites have been eaten this week.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I have had some great writing and life conversations with two friends. One in Montana and the other in Portland. I am lucky to have these two women in my inner circle. They always tell me the truth and the conversations are always enlightening.

Do you need a refill? Or some water?

If we were having coffee, I would tell you there was a tornado warning yesterday. The sky was black and freaked the kids out. We are safe though and I got a scene written from the experience.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I am about over e-learning in kindergarten. I am in school til June 10th. That is all about that topic this week.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I swapped stories with a newer writing friend this week and it has been wonderful. She is an amazing person and writer and I am so glad we are critique partners now.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you the running is going well and I know that because I had to order new shoes! Gray Kinvaras are on their way!

I almost forgot! I started a podcast! They are less than 10 minutes about what inspires me and how you can live a more creative life. You can listen here: https://soundcloud.com/tammy-breitweiser-792640834 New episodes drop on Fridays.

What is inspiring you this week? I would love to know!