Monday, July 14, 2014

Permission for Writing Projects

Here's my writing in response to today's Teachers Write virtual camp! I replied to both blogs :-D

Mini-Lesson Monday 

Great prompt to start out the week. Check out guest author Donna Gephart's inspiration for the day: and check out her blog as well:

My Writing Projects: 

  1. Non-Fiction, Memoirish. A collection of short stories about my mom and dad. Their stories interspersed w/my experiences w/them. Juxtaposition time, countries, gender, age...
  2. Latina girl. Realistic fiction told in poems. Trio of main characters- Catholic Latina girl, gay Jewish Republic, and African-American communist vegetarian. Considering switching btwn the POVs-- which would require some help or at least intense research w/friends! Navigating identity in different worlds. Cultural clashes. Friendship.
  3. Latina girl. Sci-Fi. Space/Time Travel. Travel. Art. Starts w/trip to NYC, steal a painting in journal writing
  4. Dark humor, picture book/illustrated poem, about the ways a teacher might die in her classroom... (this sounds much more morbid than it is... stems from an ongoing joke with one class who kept witnessing classroom accidents!) describing the dangers that lurk in pencils, printers, and paper!
  5. More to come when I look over my past Writer's Notebooks... 
Dedication for #4---
To the Zapata Academy Class of 2014 Homeroom 210: Your willingness to take risks, laughter and sarcasm, pain and hope inspired me every day you shared your worldly words with me.

Monday Morning Warm Up: "But Underneath That..."

Prompt thanks to Jo Knowles, check it out:
All these explanations correspond to the writing projects above:

1.  This is a story about a girl who wants to go to school and do well, please her friends/teachers/family- which requires her to navigate the sometimes conflicting wishes of her mother, father, and friends. But underneath that, it's about a girl who really wants to understand where she comes from to figure out who she is.

2. This is a story about an introverted, slightly sheltered girl who feels out of place and wants to make friends. But underneath that, it's about a girl who really wants to be understood.(<--- this still needs a lot of work!)
3. This is a story about a boy/girl who wants to see the world and have beautiful things. But underneath that, it's about a boy/girl who really wants to be seen for who she is, a beautiful person. (<-- not sure how much this one make sense)

4.  This is a story about a teacher who is afraid of the dangers of her classroom: the accidents and mishaps possible in her classroom.  But underneath that, it's about a teacher who is really afraid of not being able to stop the pain her students share.
This is a story about a teacher who wants to stop the accident and mishaps in her classroom.
OR But underneath that, it's about a teacher who really wants to create a safe and inviting classroom for all her students.

SuperShort Reflection: Today was fun! But it took me all day, thinking and jotting. Jo Knowles uses a 25 minute revision goal. I may want to consider a time limit... it's what I recommend to students when they're having trouble...

Better late than never?

Teachers Write! Weekly Reflections #1 & #2

I'm late on the suggested reflection questions for the Teachers Write! virtual camp, so I'm just posting them here, and not on Jen Vincent's blog- which should be checked out: I didn't realize there was a first one until the middle of the week, but have decided I should figure out my goals for participating in Teachers Write! camp so I can get the most out of the experience. I have my students set, reflect, and revise goals regularly, so why wouldn't I?
These questions were meant to kick off the Teachers Write Camp: 
Why are you writing?
  1. To become a better teacher of writers.
  2. To get a better handle on what kind of writer I am, to improve my writing, and to determine how interested I am-and how invested I should be- in sharing my writing with others.
What is your goal(s) for Teachers Write this summer?
  1. To write: To write to at least two-thirds of the posts and to publicly post my writing, both on the Teachers Write blogs' comments and my blog, at least one-third of the posts.
  2. To learn about me as a writer: To learn about my own writing process, get a rough idea of what my own strengths & needs are in writing, improve my writing, and decide what I want to do as a writer going forward.
  3. To steal: To learn about a ton of strategies, prompts, mentor texts, and teaching points I can bring back to my classroom this school year.
How do you track your progress? What kind of goal works for you?
 Via reflection on this blog. Some goals I set are easier to "track" than others. Though tracking minutes spent or words written sound appealing, I'm going for how many days of the week I did some writing. The other goals of learning about myself as a writer and stealing ideas are less quantitative; I think I'll add a quantity to them once I've made progress on the first writing goal.

How do you celebrate your progress?
 Celebrate by sharing the writing & progress! :-) 

How did you do this week? Did you meet your weekly goal(s)?
  1. I didn't meet this goal. I wrote to two posts this week, and very writing besides those. So, new goal: Write to three posts this week, and spend 30 minutes on any further writing.
  2. I am learning (Tracking this is tougher, it's not a "SMART" goal) about my process... see the pit & peak of my week below.
  3. I'm finding plenty to steal. Ex: Word hoards.
What was the pit of your week? (The hardest part, the non-fun part?)
Getting to writing is hard. Actually sitting down to do it. Once the pen is down to paper, it gets easier. I'm going to pay close attention to what I'm thinking when I finally get to writing... what worked to get that pen to paper? Need to have some serious discussions about this with my students. 
What was the peak of your week? (The best part, the most-fun part?)
Reading others' comments on my writing is the peak this week. After the struggle to sit to write, there is a huge pay-off in the actual writing, and even more so when you have other people- strangers even!- who take the time to read what you wrote and write something in response to it... I have to remember that as I motivate myself to sit down to write this week! And I'll remember with my students how much the authentic audience matters!
What are you looking forward to and planning for the week ahead?
I'm looking forward to meeting my revised goals!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Summer Writing w/Colleagues Begins

Day 2 of Teachers Write! Camp & 1st Day of Summer Writing with Colleagues

Today, I did a quick write with two wonderful colleagues at my favorite coffeeshop, Star Lounge. Esther and I had the great idea of motivating ourselves and our colleagues to write during the summer, so we took our Teacher Writing Group on the road! We are meeting in coffeeshops in the city on  handful of dates to write, inviting our colleagues to join us. Only one colleague was able to join us this first time, but I'm hopeful more will come after summer school draws to a close.
Unlike our school-based meetings, we don't have an agenda. This time we just showed up ready to write.  I shared the virtual Writing Camp I joined, Kate Messner's Teachers Write! and they enjoyed using yesterday and today's prompts as motivation today. Here's my new work:
Race to Safety
Her stomach felt like it was about to burst. She looked at her brother, Danny, and could tell he was feeling the same thing.
“Race you,” he said, and then started running down the block.
“Nooo…” Aime said, but she couldn’t NOT join in, so she ran after him. “No fair, “ she shouted at his back.
Their parents just laughed as they kept up their walking pace behind them.
Some kid with a hoodie ran out of nowhere across their race path.  Aime dodged out of his way without slowing down. Danny arrived at their front door a full six seconds before Aime did. “That was not fair,” she said, out of breath.
“I win!” he danced around his sister.
A second guy, wearing no shirt, with bright tattoos, came racing by, almost knocking Danny down, gun in hand, shouting, “Out the way!”
The dance is dead.
“Mijo, inside,” yells Aime’s Ma, rushing to her children.
“Mija, get inside!” yells Aime’s Pa, who has somehow managed to be immediately at the door.
They all run into the crowded little alcove as Pa takes out the keys. He’s shaken though, and the keys fall to the floor. Ma has to step back outside to provide some room for Danny to bend down, then hand the keys to dad. The inner door is finally opened, the family pushes through, Ma closes the door as three more shouting guys run past.
“Who are they chasing? Where are they headed? Are we safe?” wonders Aime, her heart still racing.

Reflection: We noticed we couldn't help but catch up and touch base with each other personally before, during, and after writing. Of course, we also talked about our writing and reflected on our process. In fact, the social aspect of our writing time served to deepen my learning as well as to motivate me to write more. Thinking about our students, we know they are social beings, too! They need time to check in socially and the social aspects we can weave into the writing process may even motivate and even improve their writing.
 I was also thinking about what was challenging for me in turning an emotional memory into a fictional moment... it was the names of the characters that had be stuck and hesitating! I followed advice I'd given to students in the past: just leave a blank space or write an X there and come back to it later! But it did take a few minutes for me to recall that advice, which made me really empathize with specific students I called up in my mind. I named my characters something personal in the revision, as I couldn't remove myself too much from them. Hm.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Day 1 of Teachers Write! Camp: The View

Here's my first day of writing for Kate Messner's Teachers Write! virtual summer writing camp!

The View
The view from my spot on the porch may seem unremarkable at first. The world is still a bit hazy from the humid day in the 80s. The breeze picks up. The slightly cooler air focuses my attention. Across the mostly cement yard, my mom’s building seems rundown. Slight eastward tilt of the window sill, peeling paint, and rusty nails on the uneven floorboards of the porch don’t show the facelift the front-side of brick building just received, though the tell-tale red brick dust stains the path to my staircase. From this angle, you can’t see the roof work just completed, though the clean, green gutters silver-line this cloud of a building. Each renovation paid by thousands, scraped together quarters and dimes, by my two-job working mom. She can’t help but love the building, despite its flaws, betrayals, and seeming indifference. She’ll keep putting money and care into it, though it will never repay her love. This twenty-seven year old family member has been in our world as long as my brother. Unremarkable view, except if you know where to look: the blinds on the kitchen window shift ever so slightly as my mom peeks out to make sure we’re all ok. 

 Reflection: It was tough to sit down and write. I read the blog post and loved it, at 8am when I woke up this morning... but I didn't sit down to write until 7:30pmish! I haven't stopped writing or typing since, as evidenced by the couple blog posts. I know it, but it's hard to live it: Just write! Tomorrow will be better :-)

Teachers Write & Read During the Summer

I'm trying to blog again! The goals I wrote about before are still close to my heart. Also buzzing around in my head this summer is the need to get a healthy body and mind.  For now, a healthy mind means reading, writing, and reflecting.

School years can sometimes take a toll on a teacher.... and to sustain the level of passion, connection, and commitment I find right for the work, I need some serious summer R&R. There's plenty for a teacher to do personally and professionally to get ready for the next school year. I'll be blogging here and tweeting some ideas, too.

This time, I'm taking advantage of a few things this summer to make sure I keep reading, writing, and reflecting :-)

One: a dear colleague of mine and I are trying to keep writing during the summer! We co-host a Teacher Writing Group at our school and do a little bit better with it each school year. This summer, we're trying something different by meeting a handful of times in coffeeshops to write together. I'll keep my fingers crossed some colleagues choose to join us.

Two: I found Kate Messner's Teachers Write! Writing Camp. An awesome find hosted by Messner on her blog, with guest authors and cool teachers everywhere working on their writing during their summer vacations! Check it out--->

Three: I'm part of a group of teachers that holds a book club every month.

Embedded in all of these activities I'm subscribing to this summer is the thought that teachers who teach reading need to be readers, writing teachers need to be writers... engaging in these activities helps us better teach our students these habits happily and successfully. More on this another time; this is quite long already!