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.  🙂

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Just Posting 2.0 – SOL Day 30

Okay, I know what it is.

My alert self is realizing my subconscious is trying to come to terms with the Slice of Life Challenge coming to an end..

I want to continue this blog.  Continue *A* blog, just to blog, just to write.. but I don’t have to be definitive about the type, style, source, type of thinking, of said blog.  Am I really that organized in life?  No.  I think it’s just another procrastination gimmick I’m setting up for myself.

Well, if I can’t figure out what this blog will be about, what it’ll be like, what I’ll be blogging about, it’s time to say good bye until next year..

Yeah, right.

Today, I taught my kids about discovery in their rough drafts for Opinion.  I know this is what captures voice.  The best voice.. So, for me to confine myself to structure is just stupidity .. for me, because that’s not what I want to do.

Discovery.

So, anyone who’s reading this, I apologize for the thinking that keeps running through these pages.  You know I’m not defining anything, I’m just perusing through the cob-webs, trying to find order.

Sometimes disorder is something to be celebrated.  Going to celebrate now, because tomorrow’s the last day..  Going to mentally prepare to continue..

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?

 

The Four Seasons Pen – SOL Day 27

When I was clearing off the motley of stuff on our bar — really relocating stuff that had been dumped on my daughter’s 1,000-piece puzzle, the same puzzle she threatened to put away because, well, there was just too much junk on it and it couldn’t be seen and valued — our pewter mug appeared, there, beneath mounds of school papers and staplers and books and receipts and church bulletins.  There, still full of random pens, highlighters and whatnot.  There, safe in it’s hidden spot, as though it were playing peek-a-boo beneath freshly raked leaves, where it’s been since .. I relocated it from another clutter-prone spot in the kitchen.

I pulled out a pen I hadn’t held in quite awhile.  It’s a skinny-sliver of a silver pen, weighty like a Cross pen, scripted with “Four Seasons” and a nice little etching of a leaf on the pen’s top edge.  I stole it [!] from a pew at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Austin, several years ago.

The story is this:  when I first saw it, I imagined some fancy tourist, a fancy gentleman who decided to jaunt over to St. Mary’s from the Four Seasons, donate some of his wealth, and leave the fancy free pen from the Four Seasons in the little peg-for-pencils to the poor person who was going to sit there next (me).  Oh, it was so intended!

I was surprised when I first found it — it fit perfectly in the little peghole, and fit perfectly in my little hand.  This “perfect,” for me, translated into, “Oh, it’s perfect FOR me.  I like it, therefore I shall take it.  It’s no dole off this person’s rich back, since it’s obviously one of those hotel pens you’d happen to find in a bedside table drawer in a hotel room.  Hotel pens, as I know, are usually cheap Bic pens, but this nice, silver pen just happens to be fancy because it comes from a fancy hotel.  Oh, it’s just a throwaway.  And it’s here, just for me!  How lucky I am!”

Bah.

I wanted to taste Ferrari, that’s what it was.

So many times, as I’ve drifted through life, I’ve kept my eye open for a talisman of what could be, a wish I couldn’t quite define or pursue, and if it happened to come my way, well, I was entitled to it.  Maybe it was an attitudinal thing toward the wealthy.  They have so much.  If I could find a Ferrari hubcap, well, hey!  Pretty cool!  Let me rub it and hopefully a genie will pop out and I can be rich, too!

I must’ve grown up.  Or given up.  … I like to think the former.

I will take this pen, tomorrow.. and release it into the world, instead of keep it here in this pewter mug that’s been it’s armored protector all these years — so much so, that I hardly ever used it when I came across it.  I’d merely write “This is a nice pen” on a random scrap of paper nearby.  What was the point of even keeping it?

I would return it to St. Mary’s — I can probably think of a day I can make it out there — but, more than likely, I will just carry the dang thing around and use it for awhile, and let it accept the fate of every other pen I’ve ever possessed:  it will get lost.

It will get lost and float out into the world for someone else to find and consider.

Hopefully, it will be a witness to a conversion like mine.

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.

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.