Not bad for a fat girl

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Summer Job One is Done

Today was the last day of our writing camp. Each summer for the past several years I’ve been an instructor at a writing camp affiliated with our local university and the National Writing Project. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also work.

This time around we had ten kids in our section (there are three sites and several sections). Our group ranged from kids entering third grade to kids entering eighth grade. People always wonder how that works, but writing is a marvelous thing… we each approach it from where we are. A third grader and an eighth grader and an adult can all respond to writing challenges, albeit on different levels. Actually, we had an eighth grader whose writing is extremely mature and complex, so you can’t necessarily decide that age limits people.

Today we invited parents in to our end of the session showcase, and each young writer took the microphone and shared a piece they had written, revised, edited, and practiced. The kids were poised, confident, and proud of their writing. I was proud of them, too. Several parents commented that their kids loved the program and that it was helpful to them as writers. I couldn’t ask for higher praise than that.

Now I’m preparing for my next summer job tomorrow, proctoring a high-stakes professional exam. This one is only for a day, but what a LONG day it will be. Then next week I’m off to the east coast for a week-long professional conference on teaching – wait for it – writing. What a busy month June is. And that doesn’t include last week’s visit to Texas or the trip to my niece’s high school graduation at the end of the month. I need a vacation from my vacation!

People who say teachers have the summer off probably don’t know any real teachers. Just saying. Enjoy any time off you may have, I know I will.


It all sounds so simple.

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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.



Giving the People What They Want – Whatever That Might Be

Dear Readers,

My hope is to share with you content that you enjoy reading. I’m trying to do that in a way that is interesting and engaging. I’ve been looking at the blog stats and have come to the somewhat painful realization that my college statistics course was zero preparation for distilling the information I’m currently facing. ziggy-phone-survey-cartoon-waste-of-timeActually, that’s not quite it. It’s not the realization that’s painful, it was the statistics course and its accompanying MINITAB computer labs that were painful. In graduate school someone gave me the sage advice to take my statistics class pass/fail. Remembering back to my undergrad experience, I took that advice. Mercifully, I passed.

As interesting as all that may be, it’s just back story. Something I am told time and again to avoid in my writing. I guess old habits die hard. Here’s the crux of the situation: I want to know what you, the reader, want to see on BulgingButtons. From the start it’s been a cute little self-absorbed blog about my life as a fat girl. It’s branched out from there to include my life in general, including some thoughts on parenting my dear son, with bits about my teaching career, a little about my long neglected quilt projects, and a fair amount about the wonderful world of words, aka writing.

I sometimes write about health related topics, or the world of fat girl fashion. I also write about my food obsession, both positive and negative, and about my ongoing efforts to get my fat behind in gear, i.e. exercise. Some days this is more challenging than others. Oh, and challenges. I have the ongoing 47 for 47 challenge, and the NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo challenges for the month of November have kept me quite busy as well. 11212I also did a series of Daily Passions Prompts, and I have regularly written to the WordPress Daily prompts.

I suppose I’m not looking for a new direction exactly, because I really like sharing my thoughts in all different directions, but I do wonder what aspects of the blog appeal to you most, and what parts are your least favorite (or just not interesting to you). I imagine the quilters have all left the building, as my poor neglected projects page hasn’t had any action (much like my poor neglected quilt projects). And anyone seeking recipes has probably moved on, because I haven’t shared any. But I know that lots of you have chosen to stick around. I’d love to know why.

I’m ready for the feedback, bring it on! What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of BulgingButtons, and what would you like to see more and less of here?

Thanks in advance for your well thought out and detailed comments! (See what I did there? Clever, no?)

With love and orange-filled Oreos (hey, I have to get rid of them somehow!),