Story Starters, Prompts & Quick Writes ~ SOL#19 ~ Day#5

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It seems like Twitter is flooded with lots of educators asking questions lately; teachers needing resources for a unit, books around a certain topic, or a lesson to teach something. I recently came across a tweet requesting prompts for journal entries for a class because the students didn’t have anything to write about.

My inner writing soul whispered, “Teach them to notice the world.”

Mary Oliver said it best, “Pay Attention. Be Astonished. Tell About it.”

What if we just modeled and taught our students what awareness was and what that looks like, sounds like and feels like? Writers have strategies to help them pay attention to the world around them, and I think that we can teach these as strategies or triggers and call them as such, rather than the latter, to get something down on the page. Awareness is a habit of mind that can be cultivated over time – every day – so that after a couple of weeks, we can just say, “Write for 20 minutes,” and students will be able to grab something because, hopefully, they have been paying attention, or else they can choose a strategy to get them started. If our goal is writing independence, wouldn’t we want them finding writing topics on their own instead of us having to provide them?

Lynda Barry’s tool for teaching students (and myself) to be more aware is pretty effective. Seriously, used daily for a week or so activates the senses to no end.  Character sketches can happen constantly because people are everywhere and people are interesting. Really see someone, pay attention to their character and who they are. We write from big wonderings or noticings when we read books, listen to music or podcasts, or pay attention to the happenings going on in our world. Most of the time, if we are truly aware, just paying attention to the voices that are constantly talking in our mind should give us enough content for life.

I’ve also learned how important it is to take a good line from one of those awareness entries, just a line and to write from that, following whatever path unfolds, to find our way to new discoveries (Donald Murray taught me this). This, too, takes practice. And, modeling. Scary modeling it is, because it’s authentic and you don’t know where it will lead. Once I modeled this for my third graders starting with the smell of burnt toast and ended up writing about how it reminded me of my grandmother’s house and pretty soon I was a puddle. Geez. 28 kids sat there mesmerized. They wanted to try it.

Awareness and discovery. I really think that’s the meat of what keeps me writing.

Well, this wasn’t really a Slice of Life, but Twitter started it.

I just followed the thread.

I’m participating in twowritingteachers March 2019 Slice of Life Challenge of writing a blog post every day for the month of March. 🙂 To read the posts of other Slicers, please go here.

The Essence of Old Books~SOL#19~Day#2

I have a book obsession. While new books are lovely, old ones speak to my soul in a multitude of ways that I am not sure I can describe.

But, I will try.

Aesthetics are important to me. How objects, spaces, sounds and words feel can prompt my senses to go into warm fuzzy mode, give me goosebumps, expand my heart and seriously increase my oxytocin levels. (Or, the opposite can occur. But, we aren’t going there today.)

I wish I could tell you how an old book feels in my hand. It’s thickly textured pages are housed in a cloth shell worn with time. One can only imagine the hands that have embraced this treasure . Golden lettering announce it’s title. Pages fragile, dozens or more sets of eyes having studied the words that rest upon them, ever so gently turning each page to meet previous ones read. And, old books are heavy. They reign when competing with the paperbacks of today.

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I picked this one up to read this morning. It’s title, The Child, by Amy Eliza Tanner, copy write ~ 1904. Inside the front cover, a human being’s name graces the page, in delicate black ink cursive handwriting of which appears to have come from a fountain pen of sorts.

“Who is this woman?” I wonder. “Hertha?” not “Bertha”, but, “Hertha”.

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Well, my need-to-know-mind won’t let this rest, so I do a quick search to see who this woman is. I’m led to a photo:

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. . . which leads me to Ancestry.com. I can’t go there. Entire weekends have been lost there. I know better.

Back to the book.

I had not heard of Amy Eliza Tanner, the author of the book, in education circles. And, I do read and research educational pedagogies and philosophies (this sounds arrogant, and I apologize if it comes off that way, but it’s more a curse than a blessing). A quick research on Amy Eliza Tanner results in some fascinating fodder to add to my scholarly drawers of who to know from education past. Here she is in the center of this photo:

Look at how empowered she looks. Good heavens, John Dewey is there. Have I been living under a rock in not knowing this woman? Honestly, the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. I could continue to read about her. She lived a most resilient life among her male counterparts. But, I don’t.

Because, here. Here is the ESSENCE of why I love old books:

The words.

In the introduction by G. Stanley Hall,

“If there is such a thing as a ‘call to teach’ it consists of loving children, and with love go insight, the  power to serve, and the desire to help each child to the maximum development of body and should of which he is capable. When vocational guidance is fully developed those intending to teach will ask themselves the question, which is the supreme test of their fitness,

“Do I really love children?”

Those who do not, have no right to teach.”

He goes on to say this message is Amy Eliza Tanners’ chief purpose in writing this book.

1904. It takes a whole lotta love to to do this job. We forget about that sometimes as we don’t see it enough in the educational literature of today. Yet, we know it. We feel it. It’s why this job hurts so much sometimes.

This, my friends . . .

is why I adore old books, AND. . .

is why I get nothing done.

But, it brings me to my happy place of bliss, wonder, and awe.

Shari 🙂

 

 

 

Why Are We Here? ~ SOL#2019~ Day 1

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Here we are. Again.

But why? Our days are full. Our plates are full. Our minds are full. Adding one more thing feels impossible.

After spending an hour reading the posts of others who have committed 31 days of their writing lives to share with the world, it was evident as to what brings us here.

Some writing friends feel the nudge through the energy of others, feeling a pull to connect with like-minded-teacher-writer-soul-sisters. We work in places where perhaps others do not write or wish to write, nor do they understand why in the world we would WANT to write. We are all writers here. Join in and hold hands. High five!

Some writing friends are carrying pain, dreariness and are walking through sludge at this time of year. Whether they or a loved one is going through difficult times, or maybe  just feeling the pressures and stress of our vocation that March brings, we know someone here will understand and lift us up. There is connection here. If a writer is hurting, we all open up and feel her heart. Grab a tissue because tears will be shed.

Some writing friends have been asleep at the wheel. Attuned to the spin cycle in the mind and neglecting the gifts the world puts before us. A sharpened writing mind takes us out of our craziness and into the present. We crave this awareness of the world – of others – and the wonder of living as a human. This sense of awe is what keeps us alive and brings bliss to our souls.

Some writing friends have not been writing and wish for a cultivated habit of coming to the page each day. They realize they have not been story-catching the moments of their existence. Fear sets in. How will anyone know we were ever here on this planet without the snippets of a life well-lived left behind? A SOL challenge will get that stuff down.

For me, it’s all of this. Connection. Well-being. Community. Awareness. Story-catching.

But, mostly, it’s because of the mystery of not knowing where I’ll end up. Each writing journey starts with a line and ends up somewhere else. It’s like a present I give myself each day. A good writing friend once told me it’s the surprise in the next line that becomes the writer’s addiction.  Or, maybe that was Donald Murray. 🙂

And,the best part? Writing is free.

Words are free! All of them! Even the long ones!

Not the notebooks, though. . . and the pens. . . and the books. . . and the cookies I need to eat to keep me writing. . .

But the words? Yeah. They’re free.

Why would anyone NOT want to write?

Shari 🙂

I’m participating in twowritingteachers March 2019 Slice of Life Challenge of writing a blog post every day for the month of March. 🙂