On Status and Observations – SOL Day 31

So, for this my last blog for the 31 Day Slice of Life Writing Challenge, some observations about where I am this moment.

– For whatever reason, I’ve been unhappy coming here to blog. It’s not you, it’s me. This is my 2nd year — I’ll be back next year, as I know the year will be different.  I’ve noticed I’m mercurial from sets of years to sets of years as I approach my middle age — and I just could not hit a rhythm with my SOL blogging.  I knew to find some moment in my life and tie it back to a memory or a story, but I just couldn’t.  I could. Not.  It’s like my brain didn’t want to go there, and really, I feel like a non-comformist, especially when I read all the beautiful writing and blogging from my fellow teachers.

– The good news is that I absolutely have not felt a whit of jealousy when I read their profound, moving posts (like I did last year during my first year).  I really, really enjoy seeing the blogs of fellow Slicers.  I’m refreshed when I visit them.  Last year, I wanted to conquer the writing I saw, this year, I just want to wallow in it like a little grateful piggy.  I plan on visiting more teacher-writer-Slicers in the days to come.

– But I come over here and .. what?  .. Just couldn’t find my grove.  Probably because this was my Dad’s place last year — I’ll Give You All This and More — and, well, maybe a part of me feels I profaned it by just deciding to blog whatever this month for the SOL Challenge.  This is probably what’s going on.. I have to get over it..

– Chuckles with the hubby tonight at Carabba’s, a local Italian restaurant.  Actually, the laughing was afterward, when we went to REI and tried looking for tennis shows for his size 14/15 monster feet.  Aside from Keens, they have the uglieset shoes.  Today, he tried on these yellow and black stompers that looked like the cross between a giant bee and a rubber duck.  We didn’t get them.. but they were so comfortable, he almost got them.  Hubby didn’t think they went with anything.

– Selena’s Anniversary — the anniversary of her death.  She’s from where I’m from, but I only knew about within the first 2 hours after she died. Now, every couple of years, I binge and listen to her music, watch her videos and live concerts and dream about her.  Today, I came across an article on a festival they’ve begun having every year in her hometown of Corpus Christi, TX.

Said an actress who attributed her success in Hollywood to Selena:

I moved to Hollywood, and the struggle was real,” Cruz said. “But after 15 years of struggling, now we’re getting representation with ‘Orange is the New Black,’ and that is something that I feel Selena broke some barriers for us.

I’m sorry .. if she struggled for 15 years, only to end up on Orange, then Cruz was just wasn’t a good actress.  No, I’ve never seen her on her show, but to say that ending up on a prison show and saying that this is “representation” for Hispanics.  Playing an Hispanic on a television wasn’t what Selena was about.

Selena started with her Mexican-American culture, but aimed for mainstream because she saw herself as an American. Driven by her talents, she knew she was unstoppable, until the end.  Not once, in all that research and interviews I’ve read, have I heard her mention “representation.”  She worked her butt off to make it.  Which is all any of us can ever ask..

Forget “representation.”  Find your talent, work hard, keep looking for avenues to show your work.

Kinda like writing..

– So.. on this, the 31st day of our SOL challenge, I plan on starting another blog somewhere else, just to knock the funk out and do what I want to do.  Here, this isn’t it.  I’ve struggled.  Here, I want to think and reflect about my Dad.  To blog, something I now feel comfortable with (thank you SOL), needs go somewhere else.  I’m ready to move that intention over.. and just write.  🙂


I Want This to End – SOL Day 29

So I pull up the twowritingteachers.wordpress.com site to get it ready for my comment listing this blog post.  My first reaction when I read “Day X” is a repeat:  I wish this would end.

So, so many conflicting reasons.. I’m a mix.  Can I sort it out?  Let me name the ways..

  1. I’m tired of outside pressure to write.  This is hesitancy.   I’ve accepted this challenge, but I’ve projected my own disappointment in not being able to write the way I envisioned I’d write.  Maybe it’s because I want to impress other people.  Instead of just writing for myself.. instead of writing for myself..
  2.  Seeing myself as disappointed is difficult.  I should be happy I’m writing everyday.  Small steps.  I don’t know if I’m doing “better” than I had been last month, a year ago.. I’ve evolved.  And I think I can name that evolving as a writer.  If I can name my writerly evolving-ness, doesn’t that make me a writer?  Am I a writer?
  3. I’m tired of outside pressure to write.  I need to develop this habit for myself.  Myself, myself, myself.  Everyday, 30 minutes start.  Do it!!  .. Please.
  4. I’m tired of seeing, creating and supporting my own roadblocks.  If I were my own student and heard myself pining for Oh, this time to write, I wish, I wish, I wish… What on earth would I say?  Sympathize the first time, objectify the second, throw them out of my office the third time.. no wonder I’m losing patience with myself!
  5. I need to find purpose.  Time to go into my notebook and do some soul-searching.

Tomorrow, I think I’ll come back and blog without having the SOL-connection.  Just blog.  Maybe 3 times.. see where that goes..

I’ll tell you this, though.  I do love the process of discovery..

Building Addition, Circa 1985 – SOL Day 28

We had a mock state assessments today while 7th and 8th graders took their actual tests in another part of the building. For about 5+ hours, we were stuck in a room together, trying to be silent as blind mice.

After lunch, though, we jailed convicts were released (thanks, Texas) to walk the track.

We walked out the nearest door — our front entrance — and walked the sidewalk along the front of our building.  Kids were calm and almost near-meditative as they walked with their blinked at the early-afternoon sun.  The spring warmth nearly put me to sleep as I walked.

I didn’t have sunglasses, so I slowly made my way, head down, eyes half-closed, as I followed my kids.  Then I saw something surprising.  Two curbs — what would frame a small road — jutted out from beneath a hard edge of the building.  I’d found what must have been an old driveway when the building’d been build 30+ years ago.  I’d heard they’d added on, but this was the first time I witnessed a remnant from years past.

I felt excited — like I’d just witnessed something extraordinary.

Two, actually.  First was the driveway, but the second was naming what I’d long suspected about myself:  I like discovering architecture additions.

This .. charm that add-ons to buildings has over me .. must be called something.  But it’s something I look for almost every time I enter an old building.  I didn’t grow up around architects.  I never owned or traversed any old buildings other than those near our State Capitol.. and I wonder what in my past defined my interest in looking up as I cross the threshold of a building long created.

Is it the additions of my own mind I’m considering?  The layering of my own mind over time I am subconsciously searching for?

Is it the site of original thinking I’m looking for in other people?  Maybe in my own students?  Am I looking for the perfect spot in the mind of a student, where I can help attach new discovery, new understanding through my own teaching?

I have to think about this.. and I’ll add on this..  Soon.

When does one ever have the chance to discover a road beneath your building?


I Will Teach What I Don’t Know – SOL Day 26

I just finished reading Murray while on the treadmill.  As I stepped off — with urgent, tight focus on what I know I have to do (type up my SOL in less than 10, again.) — I came to a conclusion that my husband absolutely hates me saying every once in awhile:  I don’t know what I’m doing.

Sometimes it’s not true in some contexts, sometimes in true in others. but it’s a saying I want to wear on my sleeve, but my husband has taught me to wear pinned to my chest — because of possible consequences.  How credible would it be for a teacher to be saying this all the time?

I don’t know what I”m doing.

     “That’s okay, I can show you.”


“Wow.. what you accomplished was absolutely incredible!!”


..seriously, it’s my secret mantra.

And Don Murray, Godfather of the Writing Process in the Classroom says that’s okay:

“The knowing that we call craft — how to find the right word, how to rub two words together in a phrase that gives off more meaning than either word alone, the skill of allowing a sentence to find its own flowing course, the placing of emphasis within the paragraph, all the techniques I practice, all my knowing, allows me to come face to fact with not knowing.  I am released by the knowing of craft into the unknowing that allows me to write what I do not — and my reader does not — expect.  Together we are allowed to connect, to explore, to astonish, to discover what we didn’t know we knew.

This stimulaxxting ignorance expands the longer I extend my apprenticeship.  It is my comfort and my delight.  Completing my sixth decade of making meaning with words, I look forward to years of increased not knowing.  I will write what I do not yet know in ways I have not yet written.”

Tonight, I eseentially realized 3 things about myself:

  1. I teach like a writer.
  2. I am thereby a writer through and through., and have been for years, even though I have no published work to show for it, because this is exactly how I think.
  3.  I ain’t half bad, I just gotta keep truckin’.

The 4th think I learned is that this would make a really good essay.  Time to pick up a manual on revision (one of the several I have on my shelf), and flesh this out with anecdotes and whatnot.

Time to think about what else I don’t know.

The Garage, the Tahoe and Remembering — SOL Day 25

We gutted the garage so we could put our old Tahoe in — it’s been sitting out front for years, getting a little weathered.  Dad wanted to sell it, but it’s the truck we all kind of grew up in.  When we got our house some 13 years go, very soon after we got the Tahoe, with several in our extended family saying we didn’t need it with only 3 kids.

We popped out 2 more sometime after.  🙂

In 2008, gas prices went through the roof, so we got another little car in 2009, 2010 (forget which), and, of course, that’s been our go-to vehicle for commuting.   Meanwhile, Tahoe sits until we need him for little family jaunts.

Dad wanted to sell him, but I told him we worked too hard for him to just get rid of him for a few thousand bucks.  The A/C’s pokey, he has an oil leak (we prepped the garage floor for it), there’s a problem with the windows so we’ve got to keep them up .. and although he has over 250,000 miles, I’m still absolutely in love with him.  My plan is for him to be our project car.. just like some people do.  When we moved to the city, we abandoned the plans of raising our family in the country with space and traditions that would have followed from our own upbringing .. long walks in open spaces, skygazing at night without the sound of cars nearby, tinkering with trucks in the garage.  Keeping the Tahoe is my little consolation prize after all these years.

It’s funny, because as we unpacked the garage and sorted stuff into trash (new vacuum box, new tv box, new tennis shoes boxes) and goodwill things, for the 45th time, I was shoving boxes of kid things and grade remembrances in corners, just to make room for the biggest keepsake of them all.

I don’t mind.  Days like this — and I knew this would come — made me slow down and savor our history, which is what I’ve really, really needed lately.  Life is just so high-pressure-everything.  It’s everywhere — phones, social media, noise, politics — fast, intense, urgent.  I tell my children life doesn’t have to be like this where you don’t have time to pause and look at each other.  We don’t have to be ships passing through the night.  Let’s slow down, think about this moment, remember the past together.

It’s working out.. because they kids helped me clean the garage today in record time (about 3 hours).  Every now and then, they’d pause .. and I’d watch my own children tenderly stacking boxes of their own memorabilia they want to keep and remember, too.

“Mama.. I have such strong memories about this, it’s so important to me.”

Me, too, baby, me too.  What’s most important is right in front of me…

Committing to Maddness – SOL23 Day

So, it slipped out of my mouth today:  we’ll be publishing our Editorials on a blog, where they’ll be viewable to the public.

Huge endeavor — I spent 5 nights in a row copying/pasting/uploading/linking everything and the kitchen sink some 3-4 years ago to accomplish this for my students.  I trembled when I thought about people outside our little classroom seeing our stuff.  I was worried about the quality of my kids’ writing.  What would readers perceive about my teaching?

I don’t know how I got over it… I think I was in denial about the blog existing beyond our classroom.  I saw in on computer screens in my classroom, sure, but those computers weren’t hooked up to the internet — No!  Yeah… I had a little server that housed this little bit of awesomeness and no one would ever, ever see my student’s work and no one would ever, ever criticize me as a teacher..

There’s been an imperceptible and gradual release of those fears — and that coincided as I implemented Workshop as the staple of my teaching practice.

I’ve been in the trenches with them, writing and thinking beside them.. through struggles and celebrating, big and small.  Workshop helped me experience this first hand with them.  Why on earth would I want to keep the hard work of my students hidden?

The kids are excited.  My hesitation is in figuring out how to move the burden from me — loading all the posts and creating this classroom blog full of entries of every student — to them, because I really want to boost that agency. Let them create, design their blog and put everything up themselves.

But that’s the nature of progress as a writer, as a creator.  Every year it gets better.

Notebook Miracle – SOL 21

Notebooks make all the difference.  Used by the teacher, that is.  Of this, I am an official believer.

Let me tell you..

I had been a day-to-day notebook keeper since early 2015.  Prior to that, I’d written weekly in several notebooks and journals — as many as raising children would allow.

Notebooks in 2015 increased my teacher performance, improved my relationships with my students, boosted my self-esteem — I have stories on these, but I’m under the gun to get this SOL out before midnight.  🙂  This all happened because I began my work with the National Writing Project.  I was drawn to it because I’m a believer in marrying your beliefs to your work.  Writing has been my belief all my life..

Sometime last year, a cork got shoved somewhere in my brain.  It started by not keeping the writing habit going.  It got so bad, I didn’t even keep my little journal and notebook writing around the house.  Maybe it was the political climate — or the nation’s climate — that got to me.  Maybe it was my mother being place in a nursing home (separate from my Dad) and losing access to my childhood home, possibly forever.  Major upset, I haven’t gone back to guess why my writing stopped.  All I know is the effects.

Here is how I was affected:

  • the worst personality crisis I have ever experienced in my adult life. We spend all this time, day by day, week by week, year by year, beginning with teenage-hood, perhaps, trying to figure ourselves out.  We improve, we backtrack, we jump with ecstasy when we’re in a place we’re recognizable to ourselves and have figured ourselves out a little.  All that stopped for me, for a period for, gosh.. I can tell you if I went back to my notebooks.. I want to seriously, seriously guess 1 year.  The. Worst. Totally not myself.  Silent.  Lost.  Inside Out.  Where was I?
  • teaching impacted.  Totally stilted. I could still perform, still love my children, but there was a wall there .. you know?  I felt.. inauthentic.  Something definitely missing.  How can I be totally me if I’m not totally there.. or there’s a part of me that is lost as I stand in front of my kids?  I functioned.. I worked hard.. I stressed SOOOO much because not “being” all there just didn’t seem right to me.  That’s not how I’ve ever lived.  It’s all or all..
  • thinking impacted.  There were times when I would begin to write something down.. and my mind could not hold a sentence. My mind would flip and I’d draw a complete blank.  Or I would hit a skip and begin thinking of the next topic without finishing the first sentence. Twice in a paragraph.  Very odd.  This is recorded in my “Classroom Notebook” that I used while I still tried to write during Writing Time with my kids during Workshop.  I learned to record these [boats on a river] lapses with brackets — just you just saw now.  Over time, I grew afraid of the blank page..
  • creativity null and void.  Gone, just gone.  All my life, I’ve had an edge on idea. I enjoyed my brain and thinking stuff up, a new version, a different angle, a unique perspective.  This was absent during that time…

But let me tell you what’s happened.

I had a mahvelous Workshop with a mentor from the Heart of Texas Writing Project (our NWP affiliate here in Austin).. and it was just what I needed to get the Notebook started again.  This happened February 20th.  I have been writing non-stop.

Today, the cork popped and my creativity sparked.. and roared!!!!

I came up with a quick-draft for curriculum for next unit.

I came up with 1 Topic-Talk chart for my kids to work with during Workshop tomorrow.

I came up with a Risk Rubric as they develop their ideas for Opinion.

I came up with a Community Chart for listing their Topic Commitments.


That… I was not expecting that…

… and I wrote it all in my Notebook, which is going fabulous.

Please, please.. if you want to streamline your practice and don’t feel you have time to work in your Notebook, do whatever you can to carve out time to get back into Writing for Self, for you, for your mind, for your thinking, for your soul, spirit and sanity in this world.

Give it a solid month, like I did — 15 minutes everyday, like I did with my students (I was bound to them through a promise).

You will notice the stress disappear, your thinking become clearer, you’ll become more efficient, your confidence will rise, you will be yourself and more pleasant and friendly and fun to be around, you’ll be more at peace with yourself and the world.

It is so worth it..

..Veronica, don’t forget.