Tag Archives: teaching writing

I asked for it

11 Mar

Unknown

On Monday, I gave the students in my Humanities class time for a free write. One or two groaned, but most cheered. I teach the gifted and they are always complaining that they never get to write their own stuff.

I wandered the room, helping a few kids get started then went to sit and write myself. I wanted to try writing a Villanelle poem. They appear simple but are actually quite tricky. I got lost in what I was doing, but the kids were writing away quietly. I had a writing time frame in mind and as the deadline approached, I put my writing away and wandered the room. There was lots of what you’d expect from gifted 6th graders.

And then there was THAT ONE.

He’d spent the whole time writing, but it was what he wrote that caught my eye. The title at the top of his page was Why I Hate Humanities.  Gut punch. I tried to read more, but couldn’t. Fortunately, as a veteran teacher, I have developed some stealthy spy skills. While the kids were working on their Mesopotamia group project, I snuck over to his seat and took a peek. His biggest complaint was that Humanities was 2 hours long and that it was “even more boring than Math”. He also did not enjoy the group project we were working on. Okay. Nothing about me personally. He’d gone on to write a second personal essay entitled Why I Hate Enrichment. Enrichment is a required reading class for everyone and part of the elective cycle. I didn’t get a chance to read that one, but I saw the student adding to that page later on. Apparently he hates it more than my class because he was onto a second page. Ouch.

I didn’t take it personally. Like most teachers, I work hard, teach my heart out, and strive to become better at my profession. I know a lot of kids love my class, but I am not so naive that I think they all do. So, I will keep on doing what I’m doing and keep on learning. I don’t suppose I will ever see Why I Love Humanities  in that boy’s writer’s notebook, but I will teach as though I might.

Stamina and Heart: A Slice of Life Story

29 Sep

sol

I was at the beach this weekend with my friends and laughed hard as we swapped stories from our classrooms.

I acted out how I talk to the kids about my heart books and getting to the heart of their stories by gently hitting my chest with fist, in that “mea culpa” motion. I even did that at Back to School Night and the parents nodded as if they understood.  One of my beach friends asked me if I ever got bruised. Not yet, but I am monitoring it these days, now that it is on my radar.

In class we are working on building our writing stamina. I have really great kids who work hard, but a few still haven’t figured out that writing time means we write the WHOLE time, not just for a bit, then pick up a book. They are writing longer and better after a few weeks of writer’s workshop.

Apparently, I need to work on my stamina, too.

Back to School Night was Thursday evening and it went well. I had to get up Friday morning, drop the dogs at Sniff Dog Hotel, then drive to the beach for the retreat. I got up just fine, because I am a morning person, but I just couldn’t get it together. Somehow, morning person me ended up arriving an hour late to the 9 a.m. meeting. I felt as though I had a hangover…did I get dehydrated because I sweat so much at Back to School Night? I felt better after lunch, where I drank a lot of water and did better at the afternoon portion of our meeting.

When evening rolled around, some former colleagues arrived and we had dinner together and spent a little time on the beach where the bonfire we’d hoped for had been canceled due to a fire ban. I had a lovely room with a balcony & fireplace overlooking the beach so I invited people back.

Photo on 9-25-15 at 3.22 PM #2

I was alright at first, conversing with my friends. But then it caught up to me. Instead of sitting on my bed, I found myself laying down. My eyes were closed but I was trying hard to follow the conversation. Eventually I heard someone say “We should go. Adrienne is tired.”.

I guess I need to work on my stamina, too.

I survived BTSN

25 Sep

Unknown

Back to school night is over! It was a full house and reactions were positive, even though I’m sure I looked a fool talking super fast and sweating like a roasting pig. Parents were nodding while I was talking and laughing at the appropriate place.  Many came up to me afterwards to tell me how much their child loved me already.

I don’t say that to toot my own horn. I have been teaching my heart out these last few weeks and then I send them of to another class. It is tougher to build rapport with students in middle school because we see them for such a short time. I guess that is one of many wonderful perks of being the writing teacher: I can get to know my kids through their writing even if we don’t get to spend a lot of time together.

I had a moment yesterday during class that almost brought me to tears. I shared this with some parents who  lingered after my presentation to talk. I told them that their son almost made me cry yesterday. They looked shocked and I chuckled. I told them that the kids were working hard, trying to write 4 different leads to the “seed idea” they’d chosen to take to publication. I looked up for a moment and saw their son, standing at the poster we’d made during our mini-lesson, really analyzing what it said. Then he turned, went back to his seat, and continued writing. I almost wept. It was a small moment, but it let me know that the kids were hearing what I was saying and our posters weren’t just decorative.

It was a good way to end a long night.

 

Randy Ribay

YA author, teacher, nerd

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