This year I invited the teachers in my district to join me in a writing group. I have always encouraged new teachers to keep a journal or jot down vignettes from those hectic first days, months and years in the classroom. I have worked with teachers who share their joys and struggles with parenting and urged them to pen some of those memories to keep them preserved. I have colleagues whose aging parents’ memories and health are growing frailer each year, and hope that they will write the stories of their lives before they fade away. But our constant struggle with limited time seems to be our biggest enemy. It can be hard to justify carving out some to write about life when we are so busy trying to live it and deal with it. I hoped that the peer support or pressure, would be our ally in this endeavor.
Our first ever group met this week at a local bookstore. It’s a rainy December afternoon. The five of us are all at different points in our careers and family lives. We each grab a seasonal coffee or cocoa, find a table in the cafe and look at one another. “Now what?” one giggles. We each pull out our writing books; there are beautiful new journals, spiral notebooks, and even scrap paper.
“What should we write about?” one asks.
“Whatever it is you want to capture, remember or create.” I respond. “I really want teachers to collect those stories in their classrooms that they think they’ll never forget but they do. You could write a book for your students. You know what they love.” I add. “Write what you enjoy reading. You don’t have to worry about it being good, just write whatever comes to you. Write about your life. Capture a little slice of your life.”
One plucky teacher starts us off, “Were we supposed to bring something to share? I’ve got something I could read.” She shares with us a poignant fictional Thanksgiving tale that left several of us with watery eyes. Here in our midst was writing with the power to move us. I could hug her; I wasn’t expecting such a beautiful launch to our group.
There was a unanimous, “Wow.” We ask her how she came up with her idea and why she wrote that story. She talks about wondering what Thanksgiving would be like without her mom and how sad she would feel. It opens up a conversation about family. We all share ideas about relationships or events that would be topics for writing. With that we pick up our pens, look at each other with a shrug and dive right in. Occasionally one of us thinks aloud or draws another into conversation about an idea, and then retreats back into the writing. I look around at these four with their heads down and their pens flying. I am so inspired. I have goosebumps. Here is a moment I my writing can capture that I will always treasure.
I know they will see their young writers a little differently tomorrow. I am already seeing them a little differently. I have always respected these teachers so deeply, but now I also admire their courage and willingness to take a risk like this. I know as we continue this journey we will grow with admiration for the writers in our rooms. We will empathize with their struggles and celebrate their successes more fervently.
We are writing teachers who write. We are what we teach.
What’s On My Book Radar?
This book is magical, both in content and composition. Author Kelly Barnhill can spin an enchanting tale that you won’t want to put down-at least I didn’t. We follow the journey of Ned, who the villagers are convinced was the wrong boy to survive a tragic accident with his twin brother. His mother (The Witch) uses magic in a desperate attempt to hold onto her surviving son, but there is always a price to pay.
We meet Aine, the daughter of the Bandit King and a mother whose last words were “The wrong boy will save your life and you will save his life.” The two are destined to meet up and we follow their journey as they try to discover who or what is an enemy or an ally. It’s not always as easy as you might think. An entire kingdom is relying on them to make the right choices.
Clear your schedule for a few days…you’ll want to check this one out!