Sunday, June 24, 2012

TMT Summer Writing Group - Week 4

This week, I have asked Katherine from Read, Write, Reflect. to talk about her 
experience at the All Write!!! Summer Institute this year. On their website it says:

The All Write!!! Consortium is dedicated to providing professional development in literacy with emphasis on the interconnectedness of reading and writing instruction. The philosophy of instruction used by All-Write!!!, is child-centered, research-based, and considered “best practice” by leading authorities in the field of education (Steven Zemelman, Harvey Daniels, and Arthur Hyde,  Best Practice: New Standards for Teaching and Learning in America’s Schools, Third Edition, Heinemann 2005).  

I wish I could have attended as this is an amazing group of people to learn from as well as such a unique and intimate experience when I compare it to a national conference. Luckily, we have Katherine here to tell us a little bit about what she took away from All Write!!! 
     I attended my first NCTE convention in Chicago this past year. I remember on one of the last nights talking with a friend, Colby Sharp, about what I was coming away with. Both Colby and I left NCTE feeling that we needed to write. We were better reading teachers because we were readers, didn’t the same hold true for writing? But I wasn’t writing, not really. I wrote papers for grad school. Some journal writing here and there, but I was not living my life like a writer.

     Fast-forward seven months. I would certainly say I am writing more than I was before NCTE. I came back and immediately began a blog. I started a journal because after sitting next to Penny Kittle in a session I became envious of hers. I have a document on my desktop where I generate a list of possible blog topics. I participated in Slice of Life for March and write several other blog posts each week.   

     I do feel that I am beginning to live my life as a writer, but I can continue to improve. One step in that growth was when I saw Kate, Gae, and Jen post about Teachers Write. Any group that would help me to write more sounded like something I needed to do. I joined immediately.  
    Through the month of June I’ve learned a few things. One, I have to make time for writing. Two, I have to make Teachers Write my own. There are times that I write to the prompt just to stretch my writing muscles. But there are other times I just write. I’m trying to work on some non-fiction writing and at first I felt bad about that. Now, I think I’ve accepted we are all writing differently but with a common goal, to renew our focus on writing. Mine writing might not look like anyone else, but I think that is ok.

     The last thing I have learned is something I already knew. The people I surround myself with matters. I’ve been at the All Write Conference in Indiana for the last three days. I came here last year to meet up with some friends and we returned for a second visit this year. Speaking over the past two days were wonderful educators and writers such as: Ruth Ayers, Patrick Allen, Donalyn Miller, Ralph Fletcher, Jim Burke, Franki Sibberson, Debbie Diller, Katie Wood Ray, and more.  There has been so much new learning, so much learning reinforced over the past two days that my head is spinning. But tonight as I reflect back a few things stand out to me.

     I have to continue to live like a writer. Ruth Ayers and Patrick Allen continually reinforced how important that was – to be a role model to our students but also just to understand what we are asking them to do. I heard them speak on the same topic at NCTE and this was huge to me. I understand the problems my students face as readers because I experience them too. Becoming a writer allows me to connect on that level with my students. I will be a better writing teacher for it.

     Ralph Fletcher reminded me of the importance of living like a writer. Carrying my notebook with me. Living my life with my eyes wide open. Ralph said his notebook was where he incubated ideas. He also said keeping a notebook gets you in the habit of paying attention to life with all of your senses and your heart. I use the computer as my primary source of writing so I am recommitting to using my notebook on a daily basis.

     Finally, Donalyn Miller reminded us of the importance of reading communities. Helping students to understand the habits of strong readers and surrounding them with a diverse reading community will help them to be readers once they leave our classroom. I think the same can be said for writing. Being at All Write, meeting with my friends – many who are already published writers, talking to them about my plans, and even saying those plans out loud – all of these things help me in my writing. I think writing can be such a solitary activity, bringing others in makes you feel less alone and infinitely more supported.

     And this is what Teachers Write is also doing for so many of us. Giving us support, surrounding us with others trying to grow as writers. Building this community will ensure that we go on to be writers long after we leave this summer “classroom” because Kate, Gae, and Jen will have set us up with the habits we need and then we can go forth and share that new knowledge with our students. I am excited to continue to grow this summer alongside all of you.

I saw Ralph Fletcher a few years ago and having a writer's notebook has truly changed my writing. It does open my eyes to everything around me. Little things I might not have noticed before become ideas. It's amazing how many stories are around us just waiting to be told. Thank you, Katherine, for sharing your thoughts and feelings after All Write!!! 

My rules for the TMT Summer Writing Group:
1. We respect each other and the types of writing we do.
2. We only criticize each other constructively.
3. We are positive and encourage each other at all times.
4. We recognize and maintain this as a safe environment.
**I reserve every right to put the smackdown
on anyone who messes with our positive energy.**

Today, in the comments section:
How did you do this week? Did you meet your weekly goal(s)?
What was the pit of your week? (The hardest part, the not-fun part?)
What was the peak of your week? (The bet part, the most-fun part?)
What are you looking forward to and planning for the week ahead?

Thanks for stopping by and have a great week of writing!

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