This girl loves…celebrating writers.

The countless compliment cards my students received after sharing their personal narratives

The countless compliment cards my students received after sharing their personal narratives

Refreshments were purchased.

Tables and chairs were moved.

Personal narratives were printed.

Students and parents were present.

Speech in hand, I began, “Welcome to our first publishing party.” My hands were shaking, my cheeks were flaming, my heart was pounding and all I was doing was welcoming the crowd.

I wasn’t an eleven-year-old preparing to read my very personal narrative.  I wasn’t the one revealing anything about myself.  I wasn’t sitting in front of a crowd waiting for my writing to be assessed.

I was just the teacher.  I was just the one hoping for shock and awe.  I was just the one celebrating the incredible progress my sixth graders had made.

The terror eventually began to subside as my students, one-by-one, read their stories.  I sensed their nerves and sent out silent thoughts to help calm them.  I caught their eyes from the back of the room and smiled reassuringly.  They read with such confidence that I was whisked away into their world, one without fear and anxiety.

As I circulated around the room, listening to their different stores, I no longer saw them as my students, but as writers.

Here were 35 children reading with gusto, their stories slowly unfurling.  Tears pricked my eyes as I listened to the story about the birth of a baby sister.  Laughter filled my lungs as I listened to a story of being locked out of the house by a four-year-old.  Cheers silently escaped my mouth as I listened to a student recount her winning goal.

In the span of 45 minutes these students had successful told their stories, inviting us all to zoom into that one moment in their lives.

Pride.  That is what I felt today.  Pride.  It is what I feel everyday.

 

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This girl loves…reflecting.

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Today I sat in the ballroom of a hotel.  Twelve years ago I checked into that hotel, unpacked the contents of my previous life in Florida, and readied myself for a new life in Arizona.

Today I attended a writing conference as a middle school English Language Arts teacher.  Twelve years ago I started an office job, temporarily abandoning my education degree.

Today I thought about all the stories waiting for me to write.  Twelve years ago I was still generating those stories.

Today I felt that I could do anything.  Twelve years ago that idea evaded me.

A lot has changed in the twelve years since I moved to Arizona.  In the span of a young adult’s life I have grown just as much.  My 22-year-old self is unrecognizable to me as I look back.  That 23-year-old girl was a child, a girl with very little real-life experience.  She couldn’t command a classroom of 35.  She couldn’t speak comfortably in a group of people she didn’t know.  She couldn’t see a happy life in the desert because she simply could not see the beauty of her surroundings.

I feel confident in saying that change has come.  That girl has grown into a beautiful, independent woman.  A woman that has started to take risks, to step just outside her comfort zone.  She has learned to grow where she is planted and see the beauty that Arizona has to offer.  She has learned to be a remarkable teacher with an incredible passion for education.

As I look back I wonder: if I told 23-year-old Sara that things would get better–that she would go on to have a wonderful life–if she would believe me.

Would she believe me if I told her that she would live out her dream and move to England for a short time?  Would she believe me if I told her that being in England would change her life?  That she would never feel quite complete unless she was walking the busy streets of London, or the quiet cobblestones of Cambridge?  That the air and the food and the people would brand her soul leaving her forever bound to that country?

Would she believe me if I told her that she would teach for the next ten years, receive her master’s in English education, and begin teaching middle school?  Would she believe me if I told her that she would have students who adore and admire her?  That students from previous classes would run up to her, envelop her in a hug, and say they were so excited to have her as a teacher again?  That they would tell her about a new book they just finished or shove their stories in her face awaiting her approval?  Would she believe me if I told her she would be teaching reading, writing, and Shakespeare?  That “If music be the food of love, play on…” would roll off her students’ tongues with ease because she taught them these profound words?

Would she believe me if I told her that she would volunteer at her synagogue, mingling with groups of people she barely knew?  Would she believe me if I told her that, while making small talk was still a challenge, she would be willing to task risks and attend social groups alone?  That she would engage her peers in discussions of the places she had seen, the knowledge she had gained, and the work she loved.

Time changes a person.  You grow, you explore, you learn qualities about yourself you never thought were possible.  While change does not come easy, it is a necessary part of life and it is time to start embracing it.

This girl loves…being inspired to write.

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The song that started it all

“Writers plan.”

“Writers use dialogue, inner thinking, and precise details.”

“Writers elaborate and add additional scenes.”

“Writers craft powerful leads and endings.”

“And most importantly, writers WRITE!”

These are the mantras I use to explain writing to my sixth grade language arts classes each day.  Maybe if I keep saying it they will eventually get the point, I think to myself.

As my students busily typed on their laptops or put pen to paper in today’s class, I watched as each of their stories unfolded.   A month ago this was not the case.  Heck, a day ago this wasn’t the case.  My students, obedient as they are, could not seem to get their ideas down on a page.  Call it writer’s block or the fear of failure, something just was not clicking for them.

Today there was a noticeable shift.  Maybe all of the writing we have been doing for the past six weeks is final paying off, I thought to myself.

Then I got to thinking about my own writing habits.

I’ve been “writing” a book for years now.  I say, “writing” but what I have been doing mostly is talking about writing.  I haven’t put pen to paper, or in my case, fingers to keys, in almost six months.  Sure, I’ve blogged here and there.  I’ve journaled occasionally.  I’ve sent countless emails.  I just haven’t really written.

Until today.

Seeing my students writing  furiously today inspired me to do the same.  I keep preaching about how writing everyday is going to build their stamina as writers but I refused to see how it was also improving my own.

In starting this writing program with my students, I’ve made a promise to myself to publish a blog once a week.  So far I’ve made good on that promise.  I’ve taken chances publishing some of my pieces.  And in the process, I’ve published some great pieces and some not-so-great pieces.  I’ve taken the advice I’ve given my students and I’ve written. 

Today that writing paid off.  I was able, with ease, to write another scene in my book.  I used the same strategies that I’ve been teaching my students–dialogue, inner thinking, precise details–and it totally worked for me.  After my furious writing, I was left with a scene I was pretty satisfied with.  My dialogue flowed and was realistic.  My inner thinking conveyed what the character’s true thoughts were.  And my precise details took me back to that exact moment in time, the day I visited Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Maybe it’s the online Shakespeare class I started only last night.  Maybe it’s the song, “Moth’s Wings” playing on shuffle every now and again.  Or maybe, just maybe, it’s the writing I’ve been doing each week that gave me the confidence to go back to my book and begin writing again.  Whatever the case may be, it feels good to “write” again.