Hard to believe this is my first blog post of 2018 . . . in June! Ever feel like you have nothing important to say, or nobody wants to read your thoughts anyway? That’s the spot I’ve been in. Teaching & everything that comes with it take up most of my time, and even though I love my job, I don’t feel the creative juices flowing for a blog post or any type of writing.
But Friday marked the start of Friday summer vacation! I like to plan ahead for the next school year while the last one is still fresh in my brain. It’s caused a lot of reflection about writing since I teach 10th grade English.
I believe very strongly that people who write without being asked to write are the most reflective, interesting people I know. But the types of writing school programs require of students don’t often foster people who won’t leave home without their journal! Every paper has to be an argument now, and I’m preparing my students for junior year when they’ll have to write a 4,000 word research paper. Can you hear the groaning and gnashing of teeth?
As I reflect on my year, I’m conflicted by how much time I spent on the required, often dull writing tasks to inform and argue for their assignments and assessments. I can only recall two instances where I allowed them to write anything creative: a narrative about foil characters & a poem they wrote for a local contest. And I believe I have made a crucial mistake by not focusing on writing that’s beautiful and graceful, that stimulates creativity, that truly moves us.
It is the writing that takes an incorrigible delinquent like Louis Zamperini in the midst of WWII and describe events so stunning, you become convinced that truth is stranger than fiction. (Unbroken). It is writing that follows Jeannette Walls, a girl from a dismal West Virginia mining town where she was the poorest of the poor to the campus of Columbia University at the age of seventeen and makes you believe that anyone can make something of themselves in America (The Glass Castle). This is writing that reaches our very souls, allows us to ponder our own lives: past, present, and future. This is writing that you, my fellow authors, do every day. It’s meaningful, to you and to others, & it’s an experience I want for our youth. Not just because words are beautiful, and the world needs more beauty right now, but because I know that writing my 18 Things trilogy also taught me to seek answers to bigger questions (a very needed skill in education right now, students don’t know how to ‘think’ because the internet does that for them). Writing fiction also helped me to forgive and to come to terms with my jacked up childhood. My students need this sort of catharsis now more than ever. Through writing, they can heal, they can discover their own unique voice, and they can appreciate other points of view in a beautiful way (insert cure for their lack of development with interpersonal relationships & coping strategies here).
Susan Orlean perhaps says it best in the introduction to The Best American Essays: “All indications to the contrary, our voices matter to each other, that we do wonder what goes on inside each other’s head, that we want to know each other, and we want to be known. Nothing is more meaningful–more human, really–than our efforts to tell each other the story of ourselves, of what it’s like to be who are are, to think the things we think, to live the lives we live.”
There’s been a lot of discourse about school shootings in the past four months. Psychological and social development is largely due to not just nature, but nurturing environments. I want to create a nurturing environment in my classroom where words matter. With that in mind, I’m planning to take up my sword, my pen, and write again. Be an example. There is beauty and power in words still waiting to be discovered . . . .
This has been another post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month! Purpose: To share and encourage.