Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Sometimes You Have to Get to Give

Get—to benefit by receiving e.g., get flowers; to retreat or go to a new place, e.g., get away

Summer break in New York is finally here and I find myself in the “not-often-the-case” position of getting.  Two plus weeks ago I had surgery—something planned so that I would not miss the end-of-school-year activities and would not miss out on consulting/work time over the summer.  Get—both the receiving kind and the retreating kind have been part of this summer life.  Friends and family have showered me with visits and food and flowers and words of inspiration.   On a daily basis, it seems, someone arrives on my porch to offer support of some sort.  I have never been one to put myself on the receiving end…I can actually state that I am uncomfortable on the receiving end, yet I have found great grace and joy in receiving the gifts that have been poured out to me. 

This summer has also been one of getting away—not physically because I really did need the time to heal and a jaunt to the beach or to the mountains would have been impossible.  Rather, I have gotten away by turning off.  By sleeping, by being entertained by series where thinking is easy and the work to understand is minimal and by sleeping yet again.  I got lost in the world of series I have long wanted to watch but have not allowed myself the space to do so.  At first I thought I would get away through the pages of a book.  I found instead that soon after the first paragraph, my mind would wander, my head would nod and my eyes would become heavy.  Not so with Downton Abbey.   I can honestly say I never saw an episode before June 24 and I am now a proud viewer of all four seasons.  I retreated to England where beauty lives in the vistas of the plush countryside, the lilt of the language and the costumes of eras past.  What a retreat!  I became entangled in a land where civility and propriety are mainstays.  I got lost in the lives of Mary, Daisy and Grand mama.  I am not one to get away through watching, much less sleeping—especially in a few week sitting, and I find that it has been a delightful way to heal and renew.  Sleep, watch, sleep—all forms of getting away have served me well.

Today I got in yet another way of receiving.  Most of my work life is about teaching writing and writers’ workshop to others in one form or another.  Today I found myself on the receiving end of the writers’ workshop—and what a delightful experience it was!  Denise Leograndis, presenter for the Accelerated Learning Institute and author of the book, Launching the Writing Workshop: A Step-by-Step Guide in Photographs, led me and a number of other educators down a path where we got to look at writing through the lens of writer.  I happily wrote, revised and conferenced with the goal of creating my own writing—a means to its own end—not a means to teach others.  To simply get.  And from that get—to create.

I am a fortunate girl.  It has been a summer of getting, of stopping, of slowing down.  They say, “It is better to give than to receive.”   I live by that life principle.  But this summer I have viewed this life truth in another way.  What better gift can I give to others than to allow them to give to me?  What better gift can I give to myself than allowing space to get away? If we are all givers then who will receive?  If I receive in gratitude and humility, am I not giving? 

So, I joyfully and gratefully get this summer.  I get to heal.  I get to write and create.  I get to renew by allowing mindless entertainment and sleep.  I get meals and cards and flowers.  I get to be loved.  And I get to love myself.

I get to give by receiving.  What could be better than that?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


The end of the school year is nearing in New York State.  Graduation is just around the corner.  The time approached yesterday when I take my yearly journey to my desk and gather another bunch of letters to mail.  Mailing these letters marks for me another end of a high school era for a group of students I once taught.

During all of the years that I have taught grades five and above, a closing activity that my classes have done as the year draws to a close is a special letter writing activity.  The students write a letter to themselves—their high school graduating self or their college graduating self (depending on the age of the students).  They write about what it is like to be a fifth grader (or whatever grade I was currently teaching).  They write about things they hope they did in the time between the letter and when they receive it.  They write about the hopes they have for their future.  Students give me the letters addressed to a stable home (grandparents, mom and dad) and I put a Forever stamp on it.  I wrap the stacked letters in a bow and put a sticky on that says something like, “mail for graduation, 2014.”

This week I pulled the letters for this year out of my desk.  I look at each envelope and remember the fifth grade child.  Then I put my return address on each envelope and on the flip side wrote a simple message—“Happy graduation.  Write back!”

This has been a tradition for many of my years of teaching.  I still have three packets of letters in my desk, the letters stopping with my move to primary grades and then to administration.  These letters have been links I have made with my students.  They link me to an older version of the students I once knew.  They link them to themselves—a younger child to the older, graduating young adult.  I love the responses I will soon receive through the mail.  I love imagining the surprise on the senior’s face as s/he opens a letter from long ago and long forgotten.

The end of a school year is upon us.  For the seniors that will soon be receiving their letters, the end of their public schooling is upon them.  Congratulations to my students from long ago.  May you begin this new era with strong dreams, joy and the knowledge you received from your schooling and life.  May you leap into your future with these gifts tied into a bow to be successful and happy in whatever you choose do do!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


I began my blog in March, 2013 as part of a yearly Two Writing Teachers writing challenge.  Little did I know what an important journey would be unleashed through participating in this writing challenge.  My writing has taken me to poetry and to essays, to deeper knowledge about my craft and about how to teach writers and teachers about writing.  It has given me courage and has been a place for me to explore my interests—both professionally and personally.  It has been a venue for me to deepen my identity as a writer and as a poet.  My blog has deepened my understanding and embracing of play.  This writing place has been a joyful home for me.   Here I have ventured to show rather than tell my story.  To show my craft as I tell others through my profession as a teacher and staff developer how to teach writing and be writers.

This blog has also introduced me to a beautiful writing community.  I could thank countless people for supporting me with their words and their friendship as we connect through our words over the miles.  Two Writing Teachers has been a springboard for me to connect to other writers—both in this community and in other blog communities since.  What a wonderful place of connection!

Below are some things I have learned about myself as a writer through blogging and getting to know others through their blogs.   I invite you to comment on things you have learned about yourself through your writing and your blogging journey!

What I have learned about myself by writing my blog for the past year and three months:
           I have learned to show my life and to show my craft through writing.

 I have learned that I am a poet.  Poetry used to be something I loved but something I was afraid to do.  Through blogging this past year, I have seen that I speak like a poet and often write (even when I am not writing poetry) like a poet.       
          I have learned more about my identity as a writer through blogging.   I have discovered that I am an essayist who often writes about the everyday but ties that every day to something bigger within my words.
I have learned how to create a 20 minute post when necessary (especially in the later part of March).
 I have learned to not be surprised when I start out writing a blog entry that it goes in a totally different way than I anticipated when I began.

I have learned that I learn about life and about myself when I write.
I have learned to be disciplined and write every day even when I am not posting (and to be kind to myself when I don’t do this lovely practice .

I have learned to have fun with words.

I have learned to be playful with words and with life.

I have learned that everything we do can always tie into a bigger life lesson.

I have learned that meeting other bloggers in this and other writing communities is enriching and fun.

I have learned the importance of commenting on others’ work as I find so much joy in what others say about mine. 

I have learned the importance of feedback.

I have learned about technology and enhancements it offers to students and writers. 

 I have learned about other places as I read about the lives of other bloggers.
I have learned that March really has a wide range of weather across the United States and beyond.  Living in upstate NY I might be talking about a blizzard while watching jealously as pictures of flowers are posted by other bloggers in other parts of the US.

I have learned to be funny with my words and vulnerable with my words—and everything in between. 
I have learned that I can write through the good and the bad, the thick and the thin—that choosing to write despite circumstances balances my world and makes me better for it.

I have learned that words matter and no matter what, choosing to use words as a means of expression makes my world and our world a better place.

Thank you for sharing my writing space and allowing me to be a part of yours.

With much fondness as I celebrate 100,
Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for sharing their writing space and allowing this writing community to flourish.