Tag Archives: Teachers Write

Don’t “Should” All Over Yourself


As we wind up another school year we often think back on the year that was, and dive into the summer that is.  These transitions are are an opportune time for reflection and planning.  But too often I hear teachers focusing so much thought and energy on what they should have done, (I should have done more with fractions, I should have had the kids write letters to next years class, I should have….)and what they should do this summer, (I should take that class, I should read more professional books, I should…)  These are all great ideas to be sure, but when approached with a should mindset, they seem more like a duty than a choice.

When we find ourselves using this verb we need to give it some thought.  Some of the synonyms for should include: be one’s duty, be compelled to, be forced to, must, and even suffer! Should often implies you’d rather be doing something else! Sometimes should is appropriate, but if we spend so much energy “shoulding on ourselves” we might be missing out on opportunities that truly feed us in more positive ways.

When we hear ourselves saying, “I really should…”, let’s ask ourselves:

  • Why? 
  • Who is this really for? 
  • How will this really make my life or my teaching better? 
  • Are there other options?
  • What would happen if I didn’t?

That might lead to other questions to help us reflect and plan ahead:

  • What worked well this year that I’d like to continue?
  • What could I try next year that would make teaching and learning more rewarding or effective?
  • What would make my summer better for me, for my family, for my community?
  • What would I enjoy doing this summer that would benefit my students?
  • What would feed my personal or professional growth?

We can’t do it all.  We are often very unforgiving of ourselves when we feel we need to do more.  We spend far too little time appreciating what do well. This leads to a shouldy attitude! The best gift we can give our students is a teacher who embraces life as well as learning.  A happy, healthy teacher can offer so much more than a tired, shouldy teacher.

So take time this summer to LIVE! Listen to the birds in the morning, watch your kids splash in the cool water, get lost in a book, stay up too late at a drive-in, roast marshmallows, drive to someplace you’ve never been, write a story, look for sea glass, watch for shooting stars, pick up a frog,  join in a twitter chat, go for walks with your loved one, buy some lemonade at a stand, unplug for awhile, close your eyes and see what you notice, try something you’ve never done before…

Not because you should, just because you can.  Life is full of choices, choose wisely.

What’s on My Book Radar?

51JGg4dJ12L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Every once in awhile a book comes out and you think, “What a great idea!”  This definitely falls into that category! Kids will LOVE following these steps for how to read stories, and I can just see the wheels spinning in their heads for creating their own steps!  Kate Messner has such a great range in her writing: professional books for teachers, chapter books for older readers, and picture books for younger readers.  If you aren’t a fan of hers yet, you should be. (Haaa, just kidding…you’ll want to be!!)

Join Kate and some amazing authors this summer for the 4th annual TEACHERS WRITE. As Kate’s site says, “Teachers Write is a free online summer writing camp, especially for teachers and librarians. It’s a chance to practice your own writing in a warm, supportive environment so that you can go back to your students with new ideas and (in many cases) a new sense of empathy for the courage involved in writing and sharing one’s work. We offer daily inspiration and assignments, including mini-lessons, writing prompts, and Q and A sessions with authors whose books you and your students love.

Teachers don’t join this group because they should-they join because they want to connect with some amazing authors and walk the talk!

Happy Reading (and writing)!

Write Here! Write Now!

IMG_3193This 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 willIMG_3195 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?

The-Witchs-Boy-Kelly-BarnhillThis 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!


10497946_876609592353825_1937506217078596531_o What are you doing this summer?  Want to participate in the hottest camp around? Teachers Write is a virtual camp for teachers to create, develop and share writing with published authors who donate their time to mentor, encourage and provide feedback to teachers . As founder Kate Messner describes it, “Teachers Write is a community of teachers and librarians who believe that people teaching writing should walk the walk.”

I’ve become more and more convinced that teachers of writing should be teachers who write.  That’s not to say we all need a goal to be a published author, but that we experience the highs and lows, the joys and the struggles of the writing process we are teaching our students. I first blogged (Teacher of Writing or Writing Teacher) about this in March after #Engchat on Twitter with Kelly Gallagher, Penny Kittle and Georgia Heard.  I was struck by a quote from Donald Graves…

“You can’t call yourself a writing teacher if you are not writing yourself. “

That became a call to action for me.  I needed to “Be the change I wished to see in the world.” (Gandhi)  I had already been journaling daily and blogging weekly, but I started trying out some of the assignments that kids were being asked to do, and not finding them easy!  I had a great deal more empathy for those novice writers and could better anticipate the supports that they may need to find success.  I could appreciate the commitment and stamina it took to stay with a piece of writing that you didn’t feel invested in.  One of the biggest perks that I hadn’t anticipated, was an even deeper appreciation for the books I was reading.  The turn of a phrase, the imagery, the word choice, or structure of a book suddenly tasted sweeter!

It also gave me the courage to try my hand at some professional writing.  I’ve immersed myself in reading, research and reflection on my teaching/coaching to help me compose some ideas around the teaching of writing.  I have made a commitment to this project for the summer that will be shared with precious little else (my family, #Teachers Write and my #BookaDay challenge!).

If you are looking for a challenge this summer to take your thinking and teaching to a whole new level, I would strongly encourage you to sign up for Teachers Write and visit Kate Messner’s webpage to get started.  You’ve only missed a few days as it runs July 7-August 15.  You can follow Kate on Twitter @KateMessner as well as fellow authors and mentors Gae Polisner @GaePo, Jo Knowles @JoKnowles, Jen Vincent @mentor texts.  There will also be guest authors throughout the ‘camp’ so you definitely do not want to miss out!

Kate asks that you support these authors by buying or checking out their books this summer.  It’s also a great way to appreciate the thinking of these mentors when you are familiar with their work!   So do yourself a favor this summer and join one of the BEST summer camps going!  You don’t have to post your work, but if you do you will receive encouragement and support from some of the best in the business!!



What’s on My Book Radar?

I just finished these two books for my #BookaDay Challenge and I am ready to dive into some #TeachersWrite author books.

18635089 18405537

Nothing like a bit of fantasy during those summer evenings reading on the deck or hammock.  These were amazingly quick reads as I was sucked right into the engaging plots.  Time travel in SLB and legends and lore in TNG!  LOVED them both!


Now I need to check out the #Teachers Write guest author’s books!

YAY Books!  YAY Authors!!

9781416995005 9780763664558 9781250019332 9780375854118


Happy Reading!