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Why I teach…

Why are we teaching? What keeps us teaching? What makes us come back after the break (especially after Christmas break)?

November is almost at an end, which means most teachers are counting down the days until Christmas break. I’ve decided to do a different kind of counting this year: I’ll be counting all the reasons to return to my profession after the new year…

One thing we need to think about during this holiday season is why we’re here in the first place. Why are we teaching? What keeps us teaching? What makes us come back after the break (especially after Christmas break)?

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I’m in my sixth year of teaching, and I still enjoy teaching as much as I did when I first started. I even like *whispers* Mondays!

What? It’s true!

For those of you who still enjoy teaching as much as you did on day one, I hope you keep the spirit alive during your holiday break. For those of you who are contemplating a career change, take a moment to reflect on all the reasons you became a teacher in the first place.

I look forward to Mondays…

I know I said it earlier, but it’s true. It’s also probably one of the top reasons I still enjoy teaching.

Mondays offer a new beginning, a fresh start. Weekends are often filled with ideas about what I can do differently (often only in my head), and I’m eager to try these new things in the classroom.

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The most difficult thing is having a great idea on Friday afternoon and having to wait until Monday to try it, having to wait until Monday to see if it was truly a great idea or not.

Waiting isn’t easy, but it’s worth it (especially with those sparks of wonderful ideas).

I love to hear students say they love writing…

How many people can say they love to write? Now divide that in half (at least) and you’ll have the number of students who love to write.

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Written for me by student 23LM2-12.

We write a lot in my class. Students have personal writing goals that they work on for six weeks. They write anything they want as they work through the writing process in their notebooks.

Maybe they simply enjoy the freedom they have when they tell me that they finally love writing, but I’m hoping it’s more than that. I’m hoping they’re finding themselves a bit as they write, which is all any writer can ask for.

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Students’ writer’s notebooks — they get to decorate them any way they want in order to personalize them and encourage more writing.

I enjoy trying new things…

Similar to my love of Mondays, I love to try new things in the classroom. I’ve learned about several new things via Twitter chats, Facebook teaching groups, and Region 12 workshops.

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Our “Writing Process” board to help students (and me) visualize their progress on our class assignment — an idea given to me from a workshop.
  • Writer’s Workshop — I adapted this method that I found on Twitter to fit my classroom.
  • Anonymous Suggestion Box — This idea came from a workshop in Student Voice. Suggestions have included: more time to write in class, adding a daily warm-up, play more classical music, and more writing prompts.
  • Interactive Presentation — I started using Pear Deck after experiencing it in a workshop. My students love it!
  • Interactive Videos — I started using Edpuzzle after encountering it in a workshop. My students like that they can answer questions and hear explanations we’ve learned in class.
  • Blog — Although we’re still getting used to having one, my students love updating their blog: CMS Cubs Write, an idea I gained from many sources.

I don’t enjoy failing, but I do love to learn from my mistakes…

After several years of teaching, I’m still failing. I learned about my biggest failure this year: greeting students at the door. This seems like such a small thing, insignificant, but it’s definitely not.

Before this year, students had assigned seating in my class. I thought it would help with classroom management and peer tutoring (I was not disappointed).

However, I learned about flexible seating this summer and wanted to give it a try. I don’t have all the fancy seating, but I did manage to group desks to make it a bit flexible: groups of three, pairs of two, and single seating. Students come in every day and choose the seat where they are most comfortable learning.

I had one major problem (other than possible behavior issues) that I could foresee: learning student names.

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Everyone, including me, made name plates to put on our desk the first week or so of school. This was great for learning names during class, but it was terrible for taking role.

I had to come up with a way to take roll without wasting class time.

The idea of greeting students at the door isn’t a new idea. I’ve seen it on Twitter, Facebook, blog posts, and education articles for quite some time. Regardless, I gave it a try: students couldn’t enter the room until I said their name and checked them off my tangible role sheet.

By the end of the first week of school, I had every student’s name memorized, even the two sets of twins!

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Yay! I’m as smart as a pig! Wait…

This wasn’t my big lesson. Well, it was a little since I learned names faster, but it wasn’t a real lesson until today, the first day back to school after Thanksgiving break.

I was greeting students at the door as per usual (no role sheet needed for quite some time), and one student smiled at me. Our short conversation that followed will always stay with me:

“You remembered!” she exclaimed.

“Of course I remembered your name,” I answered. “It’s only been a week.”

“Yeah, but most teachers forget about me.”

“I will never forget about you ____.”

Another smile.

Lesson learned and accepted. Students care. It might seem like an easy way to take roll, but they don’t see it that way. They enjoy hearing their names as you look them in the eyes and greet them before they walk into the classroom. Isn’t that true of us all — don’t we all enjoy being seen?

All that to say…

I am thankful for teaching. I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned, the people I’ve met, the students I’ve taught, and the ideas I’ve tried (failed or not). I enjoy Mondays, and I look forward to my future as an educator.

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What about you?

Share with me in comments. If you’re a teacher, tell me what you enjoy about teaching. If you’re not a teacher, tell me one of you favorite memories of a teacher.  I’d love to hear from you.

Scrambling before NaNoWriMo… Author Toolbox

NaNoWriMo…

Gibberish, right? That’s not even a word. How do you say it? To writer’s, it is the month when the entire world ceases to exist… when life on Earth becomes a distant figment of our imagination… when we forget all the other hobbies we had if they don’t include a notebook, a pen, or a computer keyboard…

You may have already started to notice the writers in your life, or yourself, tuning down the radio of the world in order to plan for their WIP (work in progress). We’re scrambling to decide if NaNoWriMo is our mission this year, too.

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Image from NaNoWriMo web site

Why are we scrambling?

National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo, will start November 1 and continue until November 30. NaNo is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people write that book they’ve always wanted to write.

The goal is to write 50,000 words by the end of the month, which estimates to writing about 1,667 words per day. Unless we rebel, which allows us to work on revising or editing projects instead. Or we can rebel and work on several different ideas.

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Before we can start writing, however, we have to know which WIP we’re going to work on…

  • the first draft of a shiny new idea (what you’re supposed to do)
  • the rest of the WIP from last November (oops)
  • the rest of the WIP from the November before that (double oops)
  • rebel and finish revisions on current WIP (they need to be finished)
  • rebel and draft two projects at once (they are both calling out)
  • rebel and work on revisions for one project while drafting another (what?!)

The scramble is happening now!

Preparation…

 What does preparation look like, then?

Getting ready for NaNo can take on many forms, but it all depends on the writer and the project… If a writer is starting a new project, then brainstorming of some kind is probably happening – at least for the planners.

However, how do you plan for NaNo when you are a rebel?

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For the rebels…

Your first step as a rebel is the same as everyone else’s: choose your project (or projects). What kind of rebel are you going to be? Set your goal.

My goal:

  • I will finish this round of revisions on my current WIP.
  • I will start the third draft, too.

Your second step is to determine how you will count your goal. Different writers have different ideas. Here are a few from a NaNoWriMo Rebel Thread:

  1. Count the same way: word=word — each word you revise goes toward your daily word count.
  2. Average: take the average words that you revise per hour and count that as your daily word count.
    • If you average 500 revised words per hour, and you revise for 4 hours in a day, then your word count that day would be 2000.
  3. A ratio: for every two words revised, count one toward your NaNo goal.
  4. A set count per hour: for every hour you write, it counts as ____ words.
  5. Chapters: each chapter’s word count that you revised goes toward your daily word count goal.

The tricky part here is choosing what works best for you. Rebels are already breaking the rules, so we may as well figure out how to break them in a way that works for us.

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Everyone…

Feel free to join us! Writing for NaNo is an adventure no matter if you follow the rules or rebel a bit. If you have a story on your heart, then you have a chance to jump in with other writers as we all paddle our way through the scary rapids that are NaNo.

Which path will you choose? Are you joining NaNo this November? Are you planning, pantsing, or rebelling? Share with me in the comments!

Author Toolbox

This post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop, which is dedicated to helping writers become stronger and more confident in their craft. Click here for more information, to continue hopping through other posts, or to join in!

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Resources

Why I Write…

People write for all sorts of reasons every single day: send a text or email, leave or make a note, finish something for work or school, jot down a recipe, send a letter, balance a checkbook, make a grocery list, etc.

I, too, write America. As a writer and teacher of writing, I’m also excited about the National Day of Writing, which was created by the National Council of Teachers of English and adopted by the Senate every year on October 20th since 2009.

While following #TeachWrite on Twitter for their first Monday of the month chat this week, I saw Margaret Simon’s challenge to share #WhyIWrite.

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1. I write because I enjoy it.

I have so many reasons to write, but this is my number one reason: I enjoy writing. Yes, I’m a writing teacher. Yes, I’m in the middle of writing my first book (revising, actually). Yes, I sometimes have to write.

However, I wouldn’t be where I am now if I didn’t truly enjoy writing.

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I keep a writer’s notebook, and I fill it with my ideas. I love to write in it, and I love the feeling of needing a new one when I’ve filled the current one up!

I enjoy the feel of a colorful pen in my hand, and the gentle sound it makes when it touches the page.

2. I write because I have ideas.

“Where did that idea come from?”

“What are your sources of inspiration?”

There are countless others that writers are asked, but those are probably the top two. The great thing about writing is that ideas can come from anywhere. You can look at a blank page sometimes and start writing.

Some places I search for ideas:

  • past brainstorms
  • songs
  • poems
  • gifs
  • photos
  • life events
  • writing prompts
  • first line prompts
  • quotes

The photo below is from a prompt that said to use a song as inspiration. #FlashFicHive is a month-long flash fiction writing workshop hosted by Anjela Curtis on Twitter. I’ve used her prompts to inspire several pieces of flash fiction, and she has an event all this month!

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3. I write because I read.

It’s true. Reading and writing go hand-in-hand (ask any writer).

Writing about the books you read often help inspire others to read those books, too. I don’t write book reviews often, but I should! I outline them first in my notebook, which helps me show my process when I’m helping my students.

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For the final copy of this outlined review, click the following link: Book Review: Chasing Eveline. Maybe my writing will inspire you to read Leslie’s novel and write a review, too!

4. I write to help and inspire my students.

Speaking of helping my students, I also write with them. We recently worked on a personal narrative, so I wrote one in order to show them how to incorporate the skills we talked about.

As you can see, I purposefully added a lot of “to be” verbs (which is a lot harder than you think) as part of our lesson on incorporating better verbs. Unfortunately, not all of the changes were to stronger verbs, but we’re taking it one step at a time.

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Before we wrote our personal narratives, we created a “Treasure Map” of ideas. This map inspired students to try another narrative in their own writer’s notebook using a different “X” event.

Students are more likely to try something new when they have a model to use. They’re especially eager to try it when they see the teacher trying it, too!

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5. I write because I can.

What better reason to end this blog post? I write because I can. I am capable of writing, and sometimes it’s pretty good.

I can write stories for fun, narratives with my students, or poems because they help me cope with whatever it is I’m feeling.

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We gain freedom when we write, so why wouldn’t we want that?

Why do you write? What is your favorite form of writing? Share with me in the comments!

Resources

National Day of Writing — NCTE link

Join the #WhyIWrite Blog Hop — Margaret’s link

When Writing Takes a Backseat – Author Toolbox

If your September has been anything like my September, then you have been a busy bee. School started, so my days are filled with teaching, lesson planning, and after-school activities. (Thank you #51Writers for today’s topic of Oxford commas. As you can see, I am definitely on #teamoxfordcomma!)

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Image from here.

The problem…

Okay, so we’re busy. What is the problem exactly?

My novel is suffering! That’s the problem. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t had any quality writing time since July’s Camp NaNo event. I was working on the second round of revisions for my paranormal mystery novel, and I’m still not finished.

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Camp NaNoWriMo

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still writing in order to use mentor pieces in my classroom, but that’s not helping my novel. Which leads me to the big problem… What do we do when our writing takes a back seat?

1. Figure out why you’re not writing.

When faced with several non-writing days in a row, take a few minutes to analyze the reason or reasons. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do I have writer’s block(No, I know what I want to write next.)
  • Do I know which step of the writing process I’m on, or what I need to do with this step? (Yes, I’m working on revisions at the moment.)
  • Am I struggling to complete my first draft(No, my first draft is finished… This particular one is, anyway.)
  • Am I unsure where my brainstorming is leading? (No, I’m not working on brainstorming.)
  • Do I have all my writing tools available? (Yes, I have everything I need. I could probably use a bit more time, though.)
  • Am I simply busy with everyday life? (Yes! That’s it!)

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2. Stop feeling guilty for not writing.

That’s it. I give you permission to not feel guilty when you don’t get to write. Many people will tell you to write every day. Well, yes… That is ideal, but it’s not always achievable.

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Think about the goals you’ve set for yourself. Writing every day is beneficial. We all know that. However, if your past few months have been as busy as mine, then writing each day hasn’t happened.

It’s okay. Don’t feel guilty. Instead, feel excited when you do get the chance to write. Build up that momentum to hopefully continue to write the next day or even a few times that week.

If you keep attaching negative feelings to your writing (guilt), then writing will lose the thrill when you do get the chance to sit down again. Attach the positive feelings that made you fall in love with writing to begin with!

3. Write when you can.

My best writing time is in the evening when my kiddos are in bed for the night. As I determined above, my life is simply filled with all sorts of other tasks right now, so writing isn’t a top priority. (I can already see some of your faces…)

What do you mean writing isn’t a top priority?

It’s true. I don’t know about you, but I have a family. I have a day job. I have other tasks taking over my writing time. That doesn’t mean that I don’t write, though. Sometimes, in order to curb the feelings of guilt completely, you simply have to write when you can:

  • Wake up a little early.
  • Write during your break at work.
  • Write during your lunch break at work. (Don’t forget to eat, too.)
  • Write in the evening.
  • Write when the house is silent.
  • Write while you’re sitting in your car before you go into work (leave a little early).
  • Set a timer, and write for only that amount of time.
  • Set aside specific days, and write a few times a week.

The most important thing here is figuring out what works best for you. We all know that in order to become better writers, we have to write. Try a couple different things until something works for you. My big one lately has been the timer. Every ten minutes helps me get a little closer to the end of my novel.

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What is your point, exactly?

It’s okay to have some off days… Even when they all stick together and form off months. The trick is making sure that you are still writing when you can and feeling positive about the progress you do make.

Just be you.

Share with me in the comments: how do you handle writing when it takes a backseat to life? What do you do? How often do you still write?

Author Toolbox

This post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop, which is dedicated to helping writers become stronger and more confident in their craft. Click here for more information, to continue hopping through other posts, or to join in!

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2

Resources

Online Timer

Camp NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo

Book Review: Chasing Eveline

As you may have guessed from previous posts, I love Twitter. I have found wonderful writing communities, teaching communities, and people who share my interests, too. Every now and then, interesting tweets will pop up via one of the daily hashtags, and you will have no choice but to acknowledge them.

One such tweet entered my feed in early April from a new author (who also happens to teach and share a similar last name to mine): Leslie Hauser.

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Leslie went on to add: “I place a cupcake in every novel I write!” (Intrigued, yet?)

About a month later, Leslie was asking for readers: a free copy of her novel in exchange for an honest review. Her novel, Chasing Eveline, would debut a few months later (July 2017).

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Having already been interested in her writing, I agreed! Although I didn’t share how many times cupcakes were mentioned when I reviewed her lovely novel, I will share the review I wrote:

Book Review as it appeared on Goodreads

(I received a free copy of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review. I do not know her, nor have I ever met her personally.)

Book Review: Chasing Eveline by Leslie Hauser

Single parent. New best friend. Lost identity. Ivy Higgins has a lot to learn in Leslie Hauser’s new YA novel Chasing Eveline.

Ivy, a 16-year-old who still doesn’t know where she wants to go for college, is lost after her mother walks out of her life. She seeks answers in the lyrics of her mom’s favorite band, “Chasing Eveline,” a (fictional) 1980s Irish rock band.

After seeing her dad slowly become a new person these last two years, Ivy decides that she must reunite the band if she wants to find her mom, which she hopes will also reunite her family and help her father.

Ivy draws you in with her determination to put her family back together, a determination that drives her spontaneous decision-making. Some choices she makes are only half-heartedly supported by her new best friend Matt, who is still obsessing over his former girlfriend Charlotte.

One of Ivy’s wild ideas leads the duo on a dangerous path through the Internet, a place that isn’t as safe as she thought. Their adventure takes you on a spontaneous ride, complete with 1980s music and movies, tears you don’t see coming, and laughter, specifically at a hilarious – albeit slightly disturbing – zoo fundraiser.

Hauser hooks you from the first moment Ivy speaks of finding her mother, and she keeps you reading throughout Ivy’s journey of self-identity and discovery.

I recommend Chasing Eveline to readers who love to be surprised, who love music and movies, who are making new friends, and especially to readers who are trying to find a piece of themselves when a piece is missing.

Connect with the author:

I hope you get a chance to find all the cupcakes in Leslie’s new novel! Here are a few ways to follow her, too:

Website and Blog: “Writer of YA Novels”

Twitter: Leslie Hauser

Goodreads: Author Page

Facebook: Author Page

Have you read Chasing Eveline? Tell me about it in the comments!