I found this poem on a blog called “Two Writing Teachers”, which is the shared blog of teachers Ruth Ayres and Stacey Shubitz. Ruth was asked to submit a piece of writing for a newsletter the All-Write Consortium is putting together, and this is what she came up with. I think it’s pretty inspiring.
Teach Different Than They Did
By Ruth Ayres
Teach different than they did –
Always at attention.
Today they come,
Millions of experiences crammed-smashed
Into reluctant bodies –
Grumbling and moaning
Complaining and shrugging
Expecting a year like last.
Failing because they’re not –
Always at attention.
So we begin living like writers,
Come gather ’round and listen and learn
Here is my writer’s notebook,
I keep fragments of my life –
Grin-splitting giggling times
Heart-breaking tearing times
Foot-stomping burning times
And so we do.
Later, after the words have come,
I push a little.
Come gather ’round and listen and learn
You can be better.
Say something real, something that matters –
And so we do.
Then in May,
Millions of experiences
free flowing, wandering the room
Out and alive because we’re not –
Always at attention.
We are a –
Community of writers.
Teach different than they did.
After reading the article, Swashbuckling Adventures on the High Seas: Historical Fiction, Informational Texts, and an Integrated Unit about Pirates, I would love to implement this unit in a classroom. I know from experience that students learn so much when they are given quality literature that causes them to be actively engaged in the learning process instead of just looking at what the textbook has to say.
I love the idea of the students coming into the classroom on the first day with pirate music playing in the background and getting a chance to explore different kinds of text about pirates to peak their interests in the subject.
It is extremely helpful that each activity and teaching strategy for the unit is explained in so much detail. I know that giving students the twin-text study in four different sections with in-depth questions for each section will allow them to learn and discover so much about pirates and pirate life. I love the number of opportunities that are given to students to write in their journals through KWLs, DEDs, the DRC, and more. These strategies can be used in other subjects throughout the rest of the year as well.
I used to dread the first day of school, when the teacher would stand in the front of the class and call out the names on the roll. He or she would get to my name (usually first), and say something like, “Uh…Elsie?” or “…Alice?” or “Alicia?” I never quite understood what was so hard about the pronunciation of my name. I guess it was that tricky little “Y” that jumbled everyone up. Because of the great confusion caused by the spelling of my name, I used to be really resentful of it, and I even considered going by my middle name, Marie, for a while.
Now, however, I love my first name because it makes me unique. Even if there are more and more people with my name now, according to howmanyofme.com, there are only 9,151 people in the entire United States that spell it the way my mother did when she named me, and there are only 18 people who have the name, Elyse Allen.
My mother has always told me that she got the idea for my name from her freshman college roommate, who spelled her name, “Elise”. She always thought it was a pretty name, and she tucked it away in her memory for when she would have a baby girl someday. Then, the 1980’s rolled around, and all kinds of totally rad names started appearing in movies and on TV shows, like “Tiffany” and “Alexis” and “Elyse”, as in Elyse Keaton, on the show “Family Ties”, starring Michael J. Fox. Watching this show, my mom was reminded of her college roommate, and when I was born in 1985, she decided to name me “Elyse”, with the cool new spelling made popular by the mother of Alex P. Keaton.
Now here’s where my last name, Allen, comes from; this is a story that I love to tell. You see, my last name, in truth, is not really Allen. It’s Van Allen, which sounds much more German. The story is that when my great, great grandfather was very young, his mother died, and his father remarried. The woman that became my great, great grandfather’s stepmother was a very mean and abusive woman, and she would physically beat him and his two brothers. Well, one night, he decided enough was enough, and he ran away from home. In order to insure that he would not be found and returned to his evil stepmother, he dropped the “Van” from the front of his last name. From that day forward, all of his descendents carried the last name of Allen instead of Van Allen. So today, when I meet people who have the same last name as me and they say, “I wonder if we’re related!” I say, “Hmm…Probably not,” and I get to tell the story of my last name.
I found this section of the reading to be very helpful, not only because it will help my future students get started with finding things to write about, but also because it will help me continue to find things to write about in my writer’s notebook. One of the strategies that I loved was “Rereading and Highlighting”. As I have mentioned before, I have kept a journal for years, and I often go back and reread my journal entries, starting with the very first one, all the way up to the most recent entry. I think that this is important to do, because it reminds the writer of all they have accomplished in writing so far, and it inspires them to keep on writing. I loved the example of Christopher, who highlighted the line, “We walk onto the field bold and confident.” Given this line, he was able to write about the soccer game from a completely different perspective than he did before. This will allow students to see that, even though they have written about a certain topic before, they still have more to say about that topic, and as they expand on the topic, their writing can improve more and more.
Wow. Aimee Buckner. What an admirable teacher, writer, and woman. I can honestly say this is the only book I’ve ever read that has given me so much practical knowledge to use in my future classroom. It’s funny because the second I start to say to myself, “Okay…but how do you really DO that?” She clearly answers my question in the next paragraph. She didn’t leave anything out in explaining how to implement the Writer’s Notebook in the classroom, and I really appreciate that.
Immediately, this book made me recall the movie, “Freedom Writers”, in which Hillary Swank plays a teacher in an inner-city high school plagued with intense gang violence. She introduces the writer’s notebook as a way of getting her students to open up about their lives, release their stress by putting it all on paper, and practice their writing skills. One of my favorite scenes of the movie is when she tells the students that they don’t have to let her read what they write, but if they want her to read their notebooks, they can leave them in an empty cabinet that she will lock at the end of each school day. When she goes to look in the cabinet later, it is full of every single student’s notebook. Those students wanted her to read what they wrote. They needed and wanted to be heard…by anybody. I think this is true of all people. Everyone needs and wants to be heard honestly, to be known deeply, and ultimately to be loved anyway. I have kept a “journal” (really just a fancy word for a writer’s notebook) for 3 years now. There are times when I need to write so badly that I find myself feverishly searching for my journal and racing to get my thoughts in it as fast as I can.
As a teacher of writing, I hope to allow my students to experience the joy and the release of getting their thoughts out by putting a pen to paper. I hope to allow them to no longer see writing as a chore but as something that allows them to express their minds and their hearts. I hope to instill in them the idea that what they have to say is important, and what they feel is valuable. I hope that, eventually, they will write without me asking them to, not because they think that they should, but because they want to write.
I absolutely love the way Aimee Buckner introduced the writer’s notebook to her students. She first engaged her students by allowing them to see that they have something valuable to say, then she gave them an outlet for their thoughts. This way, her students were not reluctant to write because they knew that they had words that needed to be heard. I will probably copy this technique exactly as Aimee described it. Oh, and I loved the way she had her class sit on the floor.
As for the organization of the notebook, I would probably opt for the “not-so-much organization” technique myself. I think that I will leave it up to my students, but I will definitely make sure to introduce a variety of organization methods. I liked her idea about starting from the front with writing about topics of their choice and starting from the back with class notes on writing. Her emphasis on filling the notebook is well-warranted. I agree that it is so fulfilling to flip back and see that every page is filled with your words, from no one else’s mind but your own.
I’m excited about the knowledge, wisdom, and practical advice I will gain as I continue to read this book. I may even read ahead a little!
Well this blogging thing is a tricky little bugger, isn’t it? I am having the hardest time keeping the format from changing every 2 seconds while I make my “About Me” page. I’ve been working on this entirely too long, and I have the day off of class tomorrow. I quit for tonight. I’ll give it another go tomorrow.
I am sooooo hip now 🙂