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.”

OR

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

BUT I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING!!

..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.

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.

I DREW UP PLANS FOR A TEACHER APP!!!!!!

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.

Book Binge – SOL Day 16

This is a confession for the ages ..

Dearest, if you come across this while perusing this blog that you know I’m trying to keep up for the Slice of Life Challenge, well, you know how I am and what I’m all about. You can’t guess where all those stacks of books come from.. why we keep running out of bookkcase space and have to keep buying new ones to scatter our collections around the house. .. Baby, let’s just keep reading…

I launder books.

Yesterday, my bookish eldest daughter and I (we brought my middle daughter along as a conspirator) went bookstore hopping throughout the city.  We started at the largest independent bookstore here in Austin, then progressed to the largest Half-Price, until we finally ended up at a Barnes and Noble uptown to just decompress with a couple of White Hot Chocolate Mochas.

My husband gave us an allotted budget — but it wasn’t an allotted budget, not really.  He said “here’s cash and you have X on the card.  Daughter has X amount, too.”  I know he expected us to be reasonable, but, of course, that didn’t happen.

We bought books and notebooks and pencil cases and cutsey, booky stuff — whatever was our little carry basket.  We tried to cull our finds, honestly, but by the time we hit the register, I was already thinking of ways to split the bill between daughter and me…

On to the next store..

Oh, Lord, what I found.  Stuff!  We split our bill again.

When we hit the final bookstore, mission creep finally hit, so I only bought 3 writing magazines (only!) before we trekked our way home.

I’m embarrassed to list the amount we spent.  In my mind, I tell myself that this was our Spring Break Vacay.  Some people spend it on shopping, nails, hair — we are book investors.  But the price we pay to read and live readerly and writerly lives still bothers me..

Eldest daughter lamented with me while were on our way home.  She told me about a time she and her friends were going over the price of their literary tastes..

Her friend remarked, “Drugs are cheaper..”

The price we pay..

 

 

 

 

 

 

My husband doesn’t know about this yet.

Writing on the Fly 2.0 – SOL Day 12

Oh, dear.

So, here’s another crop of issues on top of what I decided yesterday — that it was okay for me to straight-blog without bringing in thinking from the Notebook, that I wasn’t going to pin myself into a corner ..to where it killed the fun of the SOL challenge for me, to where I’d just quit.

New issue is this:

  • Do not wait until the last minute/hour to blog, Veronica, because you know you can just type something up (don’t do it!!)
  • Do not blog after a full dinner this week (it’s Spring Break, full of rich, happy-Mama meals where I get to cook for the family!)
  • Do not blog after sitting on the sofa eating your bon-bons (okay.. banana chips, then apple pie and ice cream, then whatever else you made the king bring you.)
  • Do not blog after having expended your energy reading from the plethora of your favorite books this week.  Mental drain is going to be too much for you.  And, oh, here’s another one:
  • DO NOT try to blog after working on curriculum for next week, when y0u go back to school.

In other words, Veronica, you wanted to be a part of this, you committed to this challenge, well, my dear, make time for it, even though you’ve decided to cheat (you say in your silly head) and just write  on the fly, even though you wanted to marry yourself to the ideal of wondering in your Notebook and taking your ideas out of there.

Enough of the frou-frou.  And cheap antics. Do better.  Write when you’re more alert.  When you’re cheerier in the middle of the day this week (with Spring Break and all).  When you’ve WRITTEN IN YOUR NOTEBOOK for goodness sake!!!!  You’re still committed to writing in that thing everyday.  What keeps you from blogging right after?

Stop being so persnickity.  You’re so silly sometimes!

 

Writing on the Fly – SOL Day 11

So, at about 4ish today, before I took my nap, and then at about 8ish, after I took my nap (I’m Christianing my Spring Break, you see), I thought about how I still needed to write my Slice of Life for the day — and I felt a lump of dread form in my stomach, as though I swallowed a lump of raw dough whole.

Not the kind of thing I wanted to feel on this, my second year of completing the challenge.

I’d already noticed a lot of my little SOL friends from last year are missing, I lamented the fact that I hardly see them blogging, and, of course, I wondered what my fate might me.  Do I give up, too?

I just wasn’t feeling the fire.  It’s been creeping up on me this week, especially with Life.  And then Life.  And more Life.

I decided to go in for an adjustment.

I didn’t quite write about this yet, because it was against my self-imposed “rules” — I hadn’t written about it in my Notebook for the idea to make it to my blog — BUT — here, I’m going to tell you now what I should have said at the beginning of this paragraph:

My plan was to really use my Notebook as a launchpad for all of my entries this year.

The experiment didn’t fail, I just need to tweak it.  I think that’s a trait of good writers to notice what’s working for them — or not — and to allow themselves the freedom and flexibility to adjust as they see fit.  Do whatever you can to NOT kill the Writing Spirit. .. because everything else in Life tries to smush it enough, I think.  Don’t you do it yourself.  Don’t allow mission-kill to creep in.  Do whatever you can to feed the fire, sustain the muse, even if it means abandoning plans and slowly modifying habits.

So… here I am absolutely free-writing on my blog, as I did last year.

Issues I observed with blogging were:

  • I didn’t reread my stuff much
  • I didn’t revise
  • I waited last minute A LOT to post  (hitting the 11:59 was very common for me)
  • I rushed with ideas and just dumped
  • Whatever writerly habits I developed online didn’t seem to translate to what I wanted to accomplish in my Notebook or in my real life writing.

Greatest success I experienced was:  forcing myself to address my own mind during a time in the school year that would have demanded I abandoned myself, my mind, my writing.  A 30-day commitment is a big deal.

Those observations were what led me to use my Notebook as a bridge.. to extend the thoughtfulness and the time thinking and preparing for each post.  To be more involved and mindful.

I just don’t have the time.  Not as much as I would want.  I’m raising a family, we have kids attending 3 different schools (university, middle and primary) — we rise early for commutes into the city.  So, yeah.. it’s tough to find time to be thoughtful in the Notebook to bridge that thinking to here.

What’s my plan now?

To just do whatever I feel like doing.  If I want to spit on a page online (like this), then I will.  I will continue to be thoughtful about writing in my Notebook and bridging it to here, because that’s something I really, really want to do — I just need to be more intentional about carving out that time.  I really want to allow myself to be free and unafraid of writing on the computer (which is probably what allllll this is about.. isn’t it curious how we get the point at the end of the page?).  I will work on going back and rereading my stuff that I type online.  Or not.  I’m among friends and colleagues.  What have I to fear?  Being chucked in jail?  Death?  Bah.

It’s just little ole me being me.

Hopefully — and I’m sensing this, look at how much I wrote — I will write more online during this year’s challenge, post beyond the SOL postings.

I won’t know until I try.  🙂

 

 

Calling it a night.. – SOL Day 8

Surely, mine will be the shortest post you’ve read. I’m exhausted.  .. because I didn’t stand on my feel and teach at all today.  Test day.  The tiredest I’ve been all year.

… and I’m afraid.  Because I’m going to tease what I think it my natural sleep cycle:  8p bedtime, Central Time (oh no!). .. I might like it..

I wish you all the best sleep tonight and the most peaceful dreams.  🙂