This summer, I want to write more. I want to finish projects that have been languishing in computer files and on notebook pages. I want to see projects to completion and not just be a starter but a finisher.
Usually this blog is a place where I write my slice of life posts that I share at twowritingteachers.org. However, I realized that I have this platform and that I need to use more than just once a week (or daily in the month of March). I’d like to spend some time this summer exploring my experiences as a teacher-writer and hopefully providing me with a tool for keeping myself accountable as I work on these projects. Recently, I wrote about trying to avoid “drift” when writing. I’ve fought a battle with that “drift” in the past week. Ideas that sounded so promising a week ago suddenly sounded ridiculous. The words on the page weren’t inspired, but insipid. However, I kept writing. It may not be all that great, but in order to grow as a writer, I need to have words on pages. I need to make myself work through the issues and persevere instead of giving up so quickly. I need to remember the twelve-year-old Jennifer who filled up page after page in notebook after notebook. That writer had no fear. That writer didn’t second-guess every word, phrase, and sentence. That writer wrote for herself and herself alone. So when I feel myself drifting away from my projects, I need to remember and celebrate that twelve-year-old writer.
For months I’ve been collecting books in preparation for the last week of school. When given extra money to spend, I used it all on books so that I could flood my students with books for summer vacation. I purchased all kinds of books, some from the Green Valley Book Fair while others were ordered online. I thought about the books that my kids enjoyed reading and topics that were of interest to them. For example, I knew that A loved anything with Babymouse while K gravitated towards anything with animals, particularly horses. D and J were hooked on the Roscoe Riley series (I think that they saw a lot of themselves in Roscoe) and H always picked books with a mechanical emphasis. Two days before school ended, I ushered the kids in and let them go shopping for books. By the time they’d finished, they had armloads of books. One of my fourth graders looked at me and said, “Wow! This must have cost a lot of money!” I just smiled and thought of my district’s Federal Program director who’d provided the money for all of these books and said another silent thank you for her support.
One of the best parts of the “book flood” was listening to the kids as they selected their books. They not only spent time carefully considering their own choices, but they also took the time to share recommendations with each other. They knew each other as readers and they were comfortable identifying books that they thought their classmates might enjoy. They’ve truly become a part of a community of readers and writers and I am so proud of them.
The “itch” to write has been particularly strong and the ideas have been bouncing around in my head. However, follow-through is often a problem. I’ll get an idea, work on it a bit, and then something happens that derails my progress. Either I question the idea, myself as a writer, or I just get bored…something causes me to drift away from the idea. As I rummaged through some old files earlier today, I found several examples of this writer’s drift. One file was filled with research and drafts that I had forgotten about ever starting. The ideas were good ones, the first drafts not too horrible, but something caused me to drop the projects.
I recently started working on a new idea and as I reviewed the old file, I wondered if I would just end up with another piece of unfinished writing. Would I experience the “writer’s drift” that has plagued me in the past? So, I decided that I needed to do something to hold myself accountable and prevent this writer’s drift from disrupting another piece of writing. I’m going to use this space to keep myself accountable with my summer writing projects by recording what I’ve accomplished for both my academic and fictional writing. Today was all about fictional projects. For example, I spent some time outlining an idea for a historical fiction piece and making notes about some of the factual information that I need to explore more in depth. For a second project, one that I’ve been working on for a few weeks, I made in-roads in working on some weak characters and elaborating on the conflict in the story. In less than two hours, I accomplished more than I had in the past few weeks and it felt so good! Now, I’m ready for a reading break—my new library book is calling!
Yesterday was a day of doctor’s appointments and after those appointments were finished, my Mom, grandmother, and I decided to go out for an early dinner. We chose a local restaurant that serves breakfast all day. I love eating breakfast for dinner and couldn’t wait to order my omelet and hash browns!
Our waitress was one of our favorites. She’s bubbly, welcoming, and just has a kind, thoughtful way about taking care of her customers. In particular, she’s especially kind to my grandmother and treats her like a queen. However, she also made my day yesterday when she asked if I was in college and out for the summer. Although I’ve been in graduate school for most of my adult life, I haven’t been a “regular” college student for twenty years! The smile on my face stretched from ear-to-ear as I explained that I was a teacher out of school for the summer. Those grey hairs that I’ve noticed sprouting in my bangs and over my ears and the crow’s feet just beginning to fan out from my eyes must not be as noticeable as I thought!
Type a few sentences. Read, delete, and then try again. Nope. The Command X keys are getting some use this evening! I thought that I’d write about the end of the school year and cleaning out cabinets and closets and purging more than a decade’s worth of stuff that I accumulated. I actually got about a paragraph written, but I just couldn’t get into a rhythm. I tried writing about listening to audiobooks to thwart the extreme silence of my classroom. It really is too quiet on teacher workdays and today was no exception! But again, the words seemed to hesitate on the page. I started on yet another topic, this time about flooding my students with books before the last day of school, but I just couldn’t harness the words. So I’ll save them for another day when the words are ready.
After my weekend of VSRA meetings, I stopped off at Barnes and Noble. This Barnes and Noble has two stories connected by an escalator. I wanted to visit the children’s section on the top floor, so I hopped on the escalator. Escalators have always made me nervous, so I try to be very careful when navigating one. For one thing, I’m kind of klutzy, so I have to really watch my step. I also worry about getting a shoe string or something caught and being dragged by an escalator. However, my quick trip to the second floor didn’t involve any problems and soon I was browsing the shelves and planning my purchases.
I eventually meandered out of the children’s section and explored a bargain table when I heard a very stressed out voice coming from the vicinity of the down escalator. I glanced over to see a young boy, no more than seven or eight, if I had to guess, glued to floor in front of the escalator. Tears streamed down his cheeks as he cried to an adult (I’m guessing his mother) at the bottom of the escalator. He cried out for help and begged for someone to come and get him. The person at the bottom continued to encourage the boy to step onto the escalator, but the boy was terrified. Finally, after several minutes, a man (I’m assuming his father) appeared from the direction of the children’s section, picked up the boy, and carried him down the escalator. I didn’t see the boy when I returned to the first floor and I hoped that he was okay after the experience.
Today has been one of those days where there’s just not enough space in the block for the day on my calendar. However, as I started to wind down this evening, I thought about all of the good things about the day. We checked off one more SOL test at school. The garden that we’re creating in the courtyard at school in honor of our custodian is coming together beautifully. I plugged through a mound of end-of-the-year paperwork, which has reduced a lot of stress. Then, after school, I served on a committee that awarded a scholarship to a very deserving high school senior. Following that meeting, I headed down the interstate to another meeting. Several months ago, one of my friends invited me to a Delta Kappa Gamma meeting as a prospective member and this evening, I was inducted as a member and I’m excited about this opportunity to connect with other educators.
The trip home this evening was pleasant. Traveling on this stretch of Interstate 81 can be pretty intense and I often think that traveling on 81 must be like racing at Talladega. However, this evening, the traffic was light and nobody did anything crazy. The weather also cooperated and although the skies looked threatening, storms never materialized. I soon pulled into my driveway, ready for the comforts of my favorite recliner. The day has been full, but with the kind of fullness that puts a smile on your face.