Writing. It’s a constant. I think about it. Read about it. Dream about it. And even when I’m not publicly publishing it, I am all about it. Eighty Sophomore English Language Arts learners (here after phrased as the ELA Eighty) are dependent on me for it. No joke. High school diplomas lay in waiting on account of me doing something about writing — And I am speaking about my ‘writing’. Not theirs.
To inspire My ELA Eighty to craft, I craft, too. If I’m not crafting, why should they be? Simply put: They shouldn’t be. And they are less likely too. BOTTOM LINE.
“Halt!” my fellow-educator-over-worked-colleagues say, “That’s a hefty expectation considering how much grading I have; what about family; what about ‘me-time’ What about the LAUNDRY!?”
Respectfully, I’m SO with you on these points. To take care of all life’s demands, someone still needs to invent the time machine. The Fall Festival, homemade Shepard’s Pie (the only kind my picky nine-year old eats), writing Teacher SMART goals — were all on the ‘demands list’ this week.
To add to it, Wednesday night I built a Monster Tree!
(inspired from When a Monster Calls for my read aloud session in the school library on Friday afternoon).
Then, Thursday night, after the nine-year old’s Fall Festival, I read and commented on the ELA Eighty’s Scary Poems (more on that in a moment) — Oh, distant hills were a’ calling: “Run, sweetheart, RUN!”
Sprinting would have been an option, if it wasn’t for one thing: the Green Eyed Monster named ‘Jealousy’ that intrudes as I watch my students’ crafting experience.
There, I admit it. Jealousy often motivates me to craft. NO! Not envy of ‘great’ writing, hell, no! — I’m happy drifting towards average — Jealousy over the Process.
As an ELA teacher, nothing excites me more than reading and sharing amazing phrases, like these by Maya Angelou: “Just like moons and like suns/With the certainty of tides/ Just like hopes springing high/Still I’ll rise” (from her poem “Still I Rise”).
Instead, I’m jealous of the “look of writing” that forms on faces engaged in crafting: it’s called ‘flow”.
Also, I’m jealous of the struggle of writing (trust me, I detest struggle), the: “I’m trying to figure out, over a series of hours and days what I really want to say!”
And I’m jealous over the “opportunity of writing”, called: “FORCED OPPORTUNITY!”
You may know it as this experience: “I really don’t want to, but I have to”. It’s an academic catalyst that sounds like, “I have this assignment to write for Professor Ortega…” It’s that “something is hanging over my head feeling”. Sounds familiar, right? Sounds just like the five loads of laundry waiting for you feeling, right?
Speaking of “flow”, sitting to write has different expressions for different writers.
Here’s a few Pros interpretations:
Brenda Ueland equates it with “stringing beads in kindergarten — happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another” (from If You Want to Write).
Martha Beck calls it ‘deep practice’ in her Light into Light course (I took it over a period of four months).
Julia Cameron calls it, “the thrill of chasing anything with words” (from The Right to Write).
Elizabeth Gilbert equates it with, “sneaking off to see your lover and making out with each other like crazy” (from Big Magic).
And An English Teacher’s Interpretation:
I equate it to being a spring chick inside an egg, poking and prodding to get free: pushing through life’s barriers (like Shepard’s Pie, laundry, and SMART goals ) to birth poems, essays, speeches that I never knew I had energy to birth.
So how do I stomp out “flow” jealousy? When I assign the ELA Eighty writing, I assign it to myself, too. Hell, living with a green-eyed monster is just so non-productive.
So, as I write along side my students,
I trade in Jealousy for Inspiration.
I trade Frustration for Compassion. That feels kinder, happier. Productive.
And this week, my students and I reflected on Author’s Craft: italics for emphasis, repetition for remembrance, and description for visualization — we wove these techniques into our assignment: Write a Scary Poem (it’s October in New England — full swing for Halloween).
And as I mixed in making PEP commentary on their rhyming lines,
I wrote a poem, too.
And, it happened! I was ‘alive’!
As I rhymed about my fear of Frankenstein, I was transformed. I became bug-eyed Igor, the evil doctor’s assistant – yes, the funny Mel Brooks version – eyes protruding, hunched over, viewing the electrified creature rising. Too stout to run for distant hills, Igor faints, half out off fear, half out of amazement, as the deceased-parted beast rages.
And transformation also happened for the ELA Eighty, too: visceral fear! Red headed clowns attacked them, bullies in allies beat them, wrinkles withered them, monsters ripped flesh from their bones, and, the most dreaded of all Cell PHONES alluded them!
They laughed, they cringed, they complained – but they were “chasing words”.
And you know what, there wasn’t a hint of envy in that room.
Because we were all “Making out with an idea”. Hell, yes!!
You ask, high school diplomas
will be gained
by me crafting
a scary monster moment?
Sounds too simple, right. Maybe it is that simple. Maybe not.
But I risk more than diplomas when I don’t write, as I instruct the ELA Eighty. Because every time I write with the ELA Eighty, I trade in ‘jealousy’ for ‘inspiration’! And inspiration is SO productive.
And, I certainly trade in finished and folded laundry
for my little “quips of imagery and imagination”!
Rewards do come in different shapes and sizes!
On Tuesday next week, the classroom will be transformed into “The Scary Café”. The ELA Eighty will arrive, final draft of fearful poems in hand. We will read aloud, open mic style, our monstrous musings.
Anticipatory goose bumps mark my skin as I envision it!
I can’t predict how many will read aloud (this first coffee house reading is all about the ‘choice’). I can’t predict how much fun we will have. But I can certainly say that the ELA Eighty, and their penning ‘professora’ will be productively present.
You know who won’t be?
The Green-Eyed Monster!
Stomp! Stomp! Stomp!
Blessings and Peace to you and ALL your Crafting Endeavors,