Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Words Swim

Check out other Slicers' stories at Two Writing Teachers.
Yesterday I swam for the first time since having shoulder surgery. My son and I ventured to an indoor pool at the condo association's club house where we are vacationing with family in northern Michigan. I dipped my toes into the pool startled by the temperature. It must have been heated but it felt a little shivery to me, so I turned on the sauna and while it heated up I slid into the spa. Pretty soon, I was warm enough to jump into the cool pool. The first breast strokes made my breath hitch, but sometimes if you stick with a thing your range improves. Pretty soon my shoulder cooperated--even for a brief crawl stroke. I know need more practice in the pool to get my range of motion back.

Get the details at Teachers Write.



Practice with pen and paper keeps my writing muscles nimble. I need to work on my writing range too and luck for me, Teachers Write, a virtual summer writing camp for teachers and librarians, started yesterday. There must be more than a thousand of us coming together to write and cheer each other on. If you've never given yourself a little time to write, I encourage you join in.

I know I started thinking like a writer sometime between third and fourth grade. I was sitting in my room at the wooden desk my mom had painted for me (the desk was sunshine yellow and the drawer faces tangerine). I wrote a story featuring my cat. I remember looking up the orange peel plaster wall through the high window to the blue sky dotted with white clouds and thinking about writing. Writing was fun. I wanted to do more of it.

These days I mostly write to model a technique or demonstrate a concept as I'm teaching. I write curriculum or lesson plans or emails or essays or outlines for books about teaching. I'm flitting between ideas and not writing long or slow.

Writing can be such fun, immersing yourself in a scene or description or poetic line as indulgent as ice cream. I don't write as much as I'd like to, so this summer I'm going to give myself time to write everyday. Mornings are best for me.

If you haven't done much writing lately or you haven't written with your students in a while, why not write a bit this summer too? When I write what I ask my students to write I learn. I discover where students will struggle or I see where an assignment is too constraining or sometimes even ridiculous. Sometimes the hardest part is beginning. When I discover that I know that I need to go into my classroom with ideas that will help students get started. If  I don't, due dates become more about punishment or shame than celebration. Sometimes when I write with students, the writing goes swimmingly, sentence follows sentence into paragraph pools that threaten to spill off the page--until the end. Sometimes I discover how difficult endings are.

Almost finished page from summer's illustrated journal @... on Twitpic
A start on an illustrated journal page from our vacation.
My writing struggles mirror students' struggles. Yours will too.

We write for a myriad of purposes and audiences. Sometimes we write to process information. We list. We note. We write quickly. Writing gathers our thoughts in a crowd so that we can see what we've learned or where we are. Sometimes we write to capture beauty or memory. We draw. We illustrate. We spin tails of travel with family and friends.  We write gifts. We write stories or poems to entertain or speak out.

Sometimes we write to practice thinking critically. Writing can be exercise. We analyze. We critique. We review. We research. We pretend and protest.

Writing in community helps. When I started teaching that community came from the National Writing Project and the time I spent with a cohort group in graduate school. Now, I also find community online. The possibilities are beyond virtually infinite; they are infinite.  We can connect with people over poetry or blogging or photography or fan fiction or you name and I bet there is a group, a list-serve, a blog community, or some yet to be invented venue designed to gather and group.

Spend a few minutes each day writing. Kate Messner posts a bit of inspiration to spur writers on each day. Check out today's quick write exercise. The water is nearly as warm as the welcome. Dip into the writing pool and swim a bit, won't you?



12 comments:

  1. Lee Ann, I too dipped into the writing pool this week, but not into the swimming pool yet. Even in southern Michigan the pool still feels too cold. Happy writing!

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    1. Luckily the pool is heated up here in Petoskey!

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  2. I love the way you drew connections between your swimming and writing! We've been talking a lot in our Writing Project Summer Institute about how our writing mirrors our students' experiences, and our little community reflects the same struggles and triumphs that our students will have. I can't imagine how people try to teach writing without experiencing this for themselves!

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    1. Me either Jennifer. You can't teach what you don't do. It's as true for reading as it is writing.

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  3. You did such a great job connecting your swimming to your writing...love it. Although I would love to fully commit to Teacher's Write, I know I just don't have enough time this summer. I am going to follow along and write some of the prompts., though. Can't wait to see what you are writing!

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    1. Thanks, Deb, I think I forced it a bit at the end, but it's fun to play around with the connection.

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  4. Lee Ann - so glad you are a part of Teachers Write AND that you got back in the pool. I love swimming - so peaceful. Good luck!

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    1. Thanks, Katherine! Lots of swimming ahead for the summer. You enjoy it too and keep us posted about the running.

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  5. Lee Ann,
    I always enjoy stopping by your blog. There's something about the rhythm of your sentences, the way you adjust sentence length to change your reader's pace, the way you put words together that gives your writing a music-like quality. My eyes just float across the page no matter your topic.

    You took me back to when I first remember thinking like a writer. It was fourth grade (interestingly about the same time as you). Our teacher was spending time in a poetry unit. I enjoyed writing poetry and playing with words. For the first time I felt like I was making decisions much like a writer. I hadn't really thought about it before.

    I'm thankful to have some time to focus on writing in the summer. I'm glad you will be participating in Teachers Write. I will look forward to following.

    Cathy

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    1. Oh, Cathy, thank you. I sometimes think I have a voice, but then I can't find it or maybe it sounds too familiar to me, or it hides (the writer struggles). I'm glad you hear music in my words--what a compliment. Thank you for your kind words and encouragement. Here's to lots of happy writing ahead!

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  6. I love this line in particular: "When I write what I ask my students to write I learn." What a great reflection on what Teachers Write is all about. And i love that you notice that you struggle with the same things your students struggle with. It's so interesting how writing can be so universal in that way. So many people start of Teachers Write feeling scared to share their work with others or even scared to write anything down because it might not be good, and those seem just as scary to students. So excited you'll be participating in Teachers Write!

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    1. Thanks, Jen. On re-reading, I'm sure I should have a comma in there after the introductory element, but acckkk... sometimes it all runs together. Thank YOU for putting in the time to connect us and cheer us on during Teachers Write.

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