Not bad for a fat girl


And Just Like That, Summer’s Over

images.jpgI know it’s just the end of July, and for many of you that means the middle of summer, but not for me and my colleagues. Tomorrow we head back to school to get ready for our students, who start the following week. Every year I feel like it’s just too early, but maybe that’s because I grew up where school starts after Labor Day, you know, in September!

Oh sure, we get out in May so we have the whole month of June and most of July off, but c’mon, it’s still summer. Roast-y, toast-y, blistering hot Summer. My pool is 92 degrees, and that’s without a heater. The pavement is too hot to walk on, so the dog is cooped up inside, but she doesn’t mind. It’s too hot for her taste too.

But I digress. Yes, I chose to live here, and I do love it, even though I just replaced my car battery yesterday. Again. They don’t last long here.

But school? In this heat?

It means heat advisory days with indoor recess, which makes everyone a little cranky. Not a great way to start the year.

Oh well, it’s coming whether I’m ready or not, and really, I’m just about ready. I’ve seen my class list, I’ve moved around all my furniture, I’ve even spent a few hours leveling my classroom library (don’t worry, that’s just teacher talk).

I’m looking forward to meeting my new students and their families, working with my colleagues, and, yes, getting a paycheck again. I’m not looking forward to waking up early, feeling like there aren’t enough hours in the day, and hoarding my precious free time. You take the bad with the good, though, right?

So for all you teachers heading back to school, make those last days count, they slip away too quickly.


Sucking the Energy Right Out of Me


No, I don’t read Asian newspapers or drink tea in a tumbler, but this is too cute.

What is it?

The Heat?

The kids?

Getting up to an alarm clock even though my body desperately wants to sleep in?

Knowing that soon I’ll be on vacation for real?

I’m not sure exactly what it is, most likely a combination of all of the above, but for some reason when I get home in the afternoon, after teaching my young writers (for just three hours) I’m totally drained. I try to do something productive, like write, or do laundry, or even just read a book, but before long I’m nodding off. UGH.

I get to bed at a reasonable hour, so why I am so tired mid-day? And why is it only when I’m home alone and have the opportunity to actually accomplish so much?

Am I running from my responsibilities? Am I hiding from something I don’t want to face? Am I afraid to be alone, so I escape into sleep? I’m pretty sure the answers to those questions are no, no, and no. I’m just freaking tired.

My first guess is that it really is the heat. Carrying around all this extra weight in extreme temperatures is hard on a body. I do my best to stay hydrated and keep cool, but I think my body is fighting back, and what better way to conserve energy than to sleep?

On Friday my summer work comes to a close, and I have a few weeks of pure relaxation. I’m heading east, away from the hellfire of my chosen Southwest home, and I couldn’t be happier. In the meantime, I’m going to keep waiting until after dark to jump in the pool, and keep myself as cool as possible. After all, I chose this, and no matter what, it still beats snow any day of the year.

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Putting the Joy in Writing Education

For the past two weeks I had the pleasure of working with a group of 12 young writers, ages six to thirteen (and a terrific co-instructor), in a summer camp setting. It was a writing camp based on the model of the National Writing Project summer institute for educators. I’ve been involved with the National Writing Project in various capacities for several years now, and I have learned so much as a result.

Here are a few of my observations from our ten day summer writing program:

Kids love to create. They create characters, stories, poems, messes, paintings, collages, leaf rubbings, comics, and memories with gusto and conviction. Yes, they put thought into those things (well, maybe not the messes) but they don’t get paralyzed. When they’re left to their own devices and not overly constrained they tend to just “go for it.” Mistakes be damned!

Kids are compassionate. When they shared their work, which was daily, it was met with respect and understanding that not all authors are at the same level of development, and not all pieces are polished as others. They met each other where they were, and offered respectful feedback to help each other develop as writers. Of course our six year old and thirteen year old writers were producing different kinds of work, but each was validated and appreciated by the others.

Kids need to move. Not just out of their seats, but out of the same four walls. We did a “found writing” scavenger hunt, a nature walk, a writing mini-marathon, and more on the lovely college campus that hosted us. We wrote at Starbucks on campus, we sprawled across the floor of the air-conditioned library, and we found a shaded hide-away beneath a grand staircase, shielded by pomegranate trees.

Kids are open. Each day they sat in a new spot, with different neighbors. Each day they sat where their name tag was set up, just like in an adult writing project. There was no complaining about wanting to sit with a friend. We moved around enough and had enough unstructured time that they knew they would spend time with their besties. They were also open to the activities and exercises we did with them. Our poets wrote narratives, our journalists wrote poetry, and everyone tried their hand at writing collaborative comics.

Kids are determined. Some of the kids came in with writing projects they had already begun, and they continued working on them throughout the camp, during our free writing time. Others weren’t sure what they wanted to work on, but once a particular idea took hold, they ran with it. They focused on their work and made it the best they could. Free writing time was held sacred, and there was no goofing off or fooling around, these kids were writers on a mission.

We utilized music, art, videos (both inspirational and comic), games, guest speakers, and engaging activities to help these writers tap into their potential, and you know what? They loved it. What’s more, they did some really terrific writing. I wish we had more time and flexibility in the traditional school day to allow for an approach more like this one. I think that kids would rise to the challenge and student writing would be improved, as would student attitudes toward writing.