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.

This girl loves…Shakespeare.

So many resources!

So many resources!

If you have been reading my blog this summer you’ll remember that I have spent the entirety of it at home instead of traveling to far away places.  With that said, I have been far from unproductive, in fact, I’ve probably done more research this summer than any other summer prior.  It is all because of a wonderful man, William Shakespeare.

For as far back as I can remember (in my English classes, that is) I have always been intrigued by Shakespeare.  I couldn’t wait to start Romeo and Juliet as a freshmen in high school and I read  Macbeth three separate times throughout high school.  I fell in love with The Merchant of Venice as a senior finding much sympathy for the character of Shylock.  My love would go further than that as I embarked upon my journey in England four summers ago.  It was there that I was able to learn about William Shakespeare as a person.  It was there that I was able to truly understand why he wrote amazing and complex characters like Iago and Caliban as well as hilarious characters like Bottom and Puck.  I read more Shakespeare in six weeks than I had in my life thus far and I LOVED IT.

Upon graduation from my MA program I decided I needed to make Shakespeare a part of my daily life.   I thought,  what better way to do that than to integrate it into my elementary school reading program!  I was lucky to be teaching in a school that would allow for this new vision and I’ve not been disappointed by the results.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my students have fallen in love with the texts I’ve exposed them to.  They’ve analyzed sonnets that most adults have difficulty even reading.  They’ve brought characters to life as I imagine Shakespeare’s troupe of actors did hundreds of years ago.

This year I have the opportunity to really make a mark.  April 23, 2014 will mark what would have been Shakespeare’s 450th birthday.  Celebrations are occurring all over England and I wanted to be in on the action.

So all summer I have been researching Shakespearean texts, watching movies, engaging in scholarly discourse with anyone willing to listen (namely Kate, Dylan and Tyler), and making plans for a ShakesYEAR!  Tomorrow I meet with my curriculum advisor to discuss my plans for the year and I couldn’t be more excited.

I cannot wait to impart my knowledge, my passion.

My goal is that by the end of the school year each and every student at my school will know one detail about William Shakespeare.  I don’t think that is too much to hope for in a world where Shakespeare can be found most anywhere!

This girl loves…letting go.

Problems just "drifting" away...

Problems just “drifting” away…

This year has been about self-reflection.  It has been about learning to just let things certain things go and not sweat the small stuff.  I am a worrier by nature so this task, simple as it may be for others, has proved to be a little more difficult for me.

I worked myself up this morning after reading a few emails containing information from various aspects of my life.  I felt my heart rate accelerate, my blood pressure increase, and my head ache.  The more I thought, the more worked up I got.  The more I talked about it, the more fuel was added to my fire.  Venting did not decrease the tension in the slightest.  No, the tension was alleviated with a simple thought: Keep Calm and Remember England.

It is amazing how escaping with a memory of your favorite place can make everything better; how it can allow you to just let go.  As my thoughts drifted back to my flat in England, the angry thoughts I had had a few minutes before, subsided.

I remembered a particular day at the start of my British summer.  It was the first rain England had seen in week,s as they were experiencing an unusual dry spell that summer.  The grass was brown; the heat most oppressive.  The day the rain began started like any other.  The sun shined as I walked to class.  The air was stagnant as I read in my room, windows opened to full capacity to allow what little breeze there was, to come through.  Then, the clouds increased, the sky darkened and the rain began to fall.  The breeze picked up, as did the rain.  I leaned out the window allowing the rain to spray my face, cooling me.  Keeping the windows open, I read Shakespeare’s inspiring words.  The pitter-patter of the rain lulled me into the deepest sleep I can ever recall.  I awoke hours later, book draped across my chest, blanket drawn up to my chin, and rain splattered against the window sills.  I took a deep breath and filled my lungs with the freshest air imaginable.  I walked along the rain soaked streets, breathing in the life that this summer shower had created.  The trees bloomed fuller it seemed; the grass shone brighter.  The world had come to life again; the oppressive heat a distant memory.  I ate a local pub that evening, allowing the warmth of the liquid restore strength and vigor into my body.  I watched as the punters drifted down the river, laughter and smiles enveloping them.  I felt ready to tackle the world.

Reliving this memory reminded me that letting go is good, that bad things are always replaced by good.  When I have allowed myself to let go of the things I cannot control-people, circumstances-I feel peace of both mind and body.

This girl loves…words.

Emotional words

Emotional words

Lately I’ve been struck by the beauty in the world.  In a world where there is so much ugliness, I feel this is a rare feat.

This search for beauty started when I began taking pictures.  Once started, I couldn’t stop.  I saw beauty in the new bloom of a flower, the red and yellow hues striking against the brown landscape beyond it.  I saw how the lines of an old door made patterns in the wood which had to be captured.  The beauty of the world through the camera lens lent itself to seeing the beauty in other places, books.  No longer was beauty confined to what my eyes could see; it was in the emotions that words would evoke in my mind.

I remember despising reading as a child for there were no pictures.  So much like Alice, was I.  It was not until later in my life, after having a little more life experience under my belt, that I was able to create these pictures, on my own, in my head.

The first experience I can remember having with words was while reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.  Her words touched my soul.  After having lost her father, Francie Nolan cannot even imagine feeling happiness once again, as the man who brought life into her world and made her feel special, was now gone.  Her graduation was fraught with despair as she returned to her classroom to collect her final papers.  Unexpectedly sitting upon her desk were flowers, flowers from a man she knew to be dead.  Eyes welling with tears, I wondered if his death was a cruel joke and that he was actually alive, that the author had not left me in despair.  Alas, he was gone and I, for the first time, cried alongside Francie.

I was only twelve years old, but I understood this loss.  I had felt this loss.  It was at this point when words started to take shape and form.  This was to be the beginning of a lifelong affair with the written word.

As of late, I have been reading and analyzing Shakespeare’s words.  I discovered the beauty of his words after taking a class on medieval literature.  It began with studying Petrarch’s sonnets and ended with Shakespeare’s sonnets.  From there I started to see how the words from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet were truly poetic.

I have found meaning mostly in words having to do with love, loss, and lessons.  As I look back at that twelve-year-old girl reading emotions for the first time, I understand how this thirty-four-year-old woman is consistently struck by words.  In a quote from one of the greatest writers of 21st century, J.K. Rowling, “Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic.”  Cheers to all of the lovers of the written word.

 

This girl loves…human rights.

My own design

Meshing the old with the new.

“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind…” a fitting quote from William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, set upon a symbol from the human rights campaign.

This is certainly meshing the old with the new.  William Shakespeare was well ahead of his time when he wrote this for two characters denied the right to marry.  Little did he know that, 400 years after writing these words, I would be using them to fight for the rights of my fellow humans.

William Shakespeare wrote these words so many years ago and never did they ring more true to me than today.  With millions marching in Washington D.C. displaying their beliefs about the right to marry, I thought this quote was most fitting.  We do not choose who we love and therefore, should not be denied any right regarding that love.

I have watched my friends and family post about this hot topic for a few days now.  What I noticed more than anything, which warms my heart, is that we are a community that stands up for what we believe.  Many of my friends and family changed their Facebook profile pictures to reflect the symbol for the human rights campaign then posted their emotional messages.  Some were more heated than others but what I wondered, as I read through the millions of comments, was how marriage between two people that love each other has become a public issue?  No one, in this free country, should have the right to tell you who you can or cannot love.  It does not hurt or harm anyone if a man and a woman get married, so why should it worry anyone if a man and a man or a woman and a woman want to get married?  I’ve been reading the multiple posts in an effort to understand and yet I am still confused.  Some people cite religion and that baffles me because what religion denies love? (Because, isn’t the essence of marriage just that, love?)  I believe you would be hard-pressed to find one that does.

Treating the homosexual population differently than the heterosexual population is backward thinking.  Haven’t we already fought this fight (gender, religion, race) and won?  Why are we constantly fighting for our rights in this free country?  Will we ever see a time when all humans have the same rights?

I believe we will as long as there are people like my friends, family, and me fighting.  I think we should all take a page from William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, “Who could refrain, that had a heart to love, and in that heart courage to make ‘s love known?”

Another symbol of old and new ideas of love.

Another symbol of old and new ideas of love.

 

 

 

 

This girl loves…creating.

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Oh, Will, you constantly amaze me!

William Shakespeare surely knew what he was talking about when he said, “All the world’s a stage, and all of the men and women merely players.”

Today was Wacky Wednesday in honor of Read Across America week.  Each year, we celebrate the written word and each year I am reminded of the importance of creating.  Writers create pieces for us to read.  They create a world in which we can escape.  Today, I wanted my students to do that as well.  I wanted them to create a world in which they could escape.

In his book, Wacky Wednesday, Dr. Seuss creates a world that is upside down.  Today, I created a world that was upside down.  I came in to school and taught as my alter-ego.  I explained that if I could play any part, I would play myself as a British girl.  I created a backstory similar to the backstories writers create for their characters.  It helped that Olivia is really just a married me with a British accent.

I asked my students to create a part to play for the day as well and they did not disappoint.  They created characters that played golf, football, and basketball.  They created characters that sang, danced, and acted.  They created characters who invented and explored.  The main theme here was that they “created”.  For homework, they were asked to tell their families stories using the characters they created today.  I have already heard from a few of their parents that they did, in fact, tell their stories.

I read an article a few weeks ago about the importance of theater in our lives.  What we did in class today was theater in a sense.  We created characters for ourselves and we acted as those characters.  We utilized that part of the brain that so few people use anymore, it seems.  I hope that by spending the time today to create, I have helped our future generations become thoughtful, creative problem solvers.

I think in our busy lives, we have lost a bit of our imagination, thus, losing some of that essential creativity.  Creativity lends itself to great problem solving, a quality lacking in much of our adult population.  We are so used to programs being created for us, problems being solved, books being written, but where are we creating?  What are you creating?  What mark will you leave on the world?

This girl loves…romance.

The month of love is upon us and seeing as this blog is all about what I love, I thought it would be fitting to talk about romance (or in my case, talk about my hopeless romantic self).

"Who could refrain, That had a heart to love, and in that heart. Courage, to make's love known?" -Macbeth

“Who could refrain, That had a heart to love, and in that heart. Courage, to make’s love known?” -Macbeth

February 1st arrived and I was ready with my Valentine-themed pins.  I had collected and made an inventory all of my red attire: scarves, hats, socks, tights, sweaters.  I had pinned all of the recipes and crafts for the most lovely month.  I had also noted my favorite poems and quotes of love.

I had secured all things necessary to make this a love-filled month; all except a partner, a detail that had not yet escaped me.

For here I am, a girl who has so much love to give and but no partner with whom to give it.  I guess that is what defines a hopeless romantic after all: a romantic sans hope?  I refuse to believe that because I have yet to give up hope.

I have dreamed about that perfect someone that would sweep me off of my feet since I was a kid.  I’ve dreamed about words of love being whispered into my ear.  I’ve imagined scenes where we’d kiss in the rain or kiss in a field full of flowers or, the ultimate, kiss in front of Big Ben (yes, I am an Anglophile not a Francophile, so it’s Big Ben and not the Eiffel Tower for me).  Most of all, I’ve thought about how completely happy and utterly satisfied I’d feel if I just had that special someone.

I’m not imagining this feeling though because I’ve felt it before.  I guess that’s what sets me apart from other “hopeless romantics” because I have had that perfect someone.  I know what it feels like to be so content in love with someone that the rest of the world ceases to exist. I know what it is like to want to stop time and freeze that moment of sheer happiness.

For all of that, I cannot be content calling myself a hopeless romantic, better I should call myself a hopeful romantic.  As long as I have those memories of true, all-encompassing love, then I cannot lose hope; for, one day my prince shall come.

This girl loves…learning.

If my feelings were captured in a photo, this is what it would have looked like today.

If my feelings were captured in a photo, this is what it would have looked like today.

Today my heart was warmed.

Eleven, eight- and nine-year-olds gasped in disbelief when I told them of a college student’s editorial about how reading classical texts was a waste of time.   Their feelings were fully justified as they stated exactly why and how this editorial conveyed falsehoods.

They believe that by reading we gain insight into the past, learn about ourselves and others through character relationships, as well as make meaningful connections to our lives, other texts, and to the world.

When told of the college student’s reasoning as to why reading was a waste of time (reading cutting into time that could be best spent socializing) my students mentioned that you could get together with your friends and discuss the books you were reading. (Ha!  From their mouth to God’s ears, I say.)  I feel it’s worth mentioning that two more students exemplified this idea by explaining that their weekend plans included a game of touch football while they recited lines from a Shakespearean play.  The importance of making connections was also stated beautifully when one student made a connection from the fairies in William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (the classical text we are currently studying) to a fairy known to all children-the tooth fairy.

I believe that by listening to them today, I gained insight.You may rest assured that all is not lost because our future includes young people not demanding more television or computer time, but young people readily arguing the importance of studying great literature.