Sunday, June 17, 2007

Writing Project

This past week, I had the opportunity to participate in a week long workshop for teachers. The program is in conjunction with the National Writing Project and its mission is to aid teachers across the curriculum in implementing writing into their classrooms. The idea is that if you are comfortable writing, then you will be more comfortable in helping your students learn to write. There is a focus on writing to learn as well as a focus on getting teachers writing. Needless to say, I wrote a great deal this past week. I used to write all the time during college. Mostly poetry. But, for all kinds of reasons, I've been slacking. And it has felt like something was missing.

Anyway, I had to write a one-page reflection on my experience at the end of the workshop (after all, they had to load us up with homework--we received 2 graduate credits for the workshop). This is what I wrote, I thought you might like to read it. My sister has been harassing me for a while now to post something new, so, Mizz Stine, here you are:

I have two passions: teaching and writing. Each of these passions fills that hollow space inside me that needs filling. However, as a writer, teaching can be draining and as a teacher, writing is equally as draining. My two passions split me. It is hard to find the balance between two things you love.

This past year commemorates my first full and complete year as a teacher. It has been a time of survival, stress, long hours, sleep deprivation, midnight breakdowns, and waning confidence. Writing has slipped from the front of my mind’s range, to the back burner, and finally off of the stove completely. Until this week.

I guess you could say that the Writing Project’s workshop is exactly what I’ve needed to feel like myself again. For months now I’ve been slinking through an identity crisis. I moved from the familiar mountains, manicured lawns and suburban landscape of my childhood to a hollow, confusing city where I felt small and skittish in an apartment where the sirens never seemed to stop screaming. I couldn’t say I was a student anymore, something I felt damn good at. No, now I was a teacher, something I consistently screwed up at on a daily basis. Nobody knew me. I clung to my students and my roommate-best friend—my one security blanket from Ogden. And while the city has become familiar and I’ve started to carve out a space and routine that feels like me, I’ve still felt something missing. And all along it has been writing, writing, writing.

I am a writer. The workshop reminded me of this. I sat down Monday night to write my daily reflection required for the course. And I just wrote. I continued writing. I felt like I was back in my own body, a pen in hand scrolling out words—things that have been bottled up, waiting for me, ideas that I thought I’d lost. By Wednesday, I was back to that place where writing ideas and inspirations keep appearing—in overheard conversations, in music, scattered along the interstate. I was grabbing spare pieces of paper again to catch all the material! My “seed journal” where I capture my ideas is back in my purse. I’m filling it up all over again.

So, here I am, trying to reflect on my experience over the past week. And all I can do is feel grateful and say thank you. Thank you to Lynda and to Anna, our group coordinators, for their roles as mentors and for showing what it means to teach AND write AND care. The concern they have for their students and for their writing is inspiring and lets me know it can be done! Thank you to Gary and Margaret for co-directing this project—and for knowing that this is something some of us just need. And, most importantly, thank you for confirming to me that what I do in my classroom is headed in the right direction. You all gave me valuable resources to bring back to my students. I started teaching to turn students on to writing. Writing is always a focus in my classroom, new tools are always welcome and always necessary.


LovingTheChaos said...

You go sister friend! Kudos for your honesty. I love ya!

Alice said...

I am so glad you decided to participate in this conference this year. I think that it was a great boost to begin your summer! I am happy that you feel like yourself again and have reignited something that you thought had long since burned out. You are an amazing writer and I am proud of you. I have to be honest and say I am partial to your essays and other short writings that have the ability to speak closer to me but I hear from others who know, you are a great poet as well! ;) Yay! This makes me happy for you! ***as an FYI to all of you reading this- she might be my best friend, and she might be a dang good writer, but lets make it clear I can be held to no such standard! Got it? :)

Stine said...

Yay! You were always good at doing what I said.


I'm glad the conference was a success.