I Choose This

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This is summer time–time for teachers to take breaks and hang out at the pool and refuel. An anomaly, I am spending my summer working with my local site of the National Writing Project and trying to plan ways to lead a schoolwide initiative.

Frustrated I can’t figure out how I am going to make this school-based initiative something that will work at my school. My head is swimming with ideas of all the good work that should be done at my school, but I just don’t know how I can make it all happen. This is my third draft–each one started from scratch. My writing group advised me to let go of my frustration and try to focus on what will work in my school setting and advised me that I’m trying to do too much.

What will work? Where should I start? What will be supported by administration and appreciated by teachers. Griping that night as I write, rewrite, and rewrite, I am unable to express my thoughts in a way that make sense.

Across the room, my educator husband reminds me, “You chose to do this. You signed up for it.”

I want to slap him, but instead I pound my fingers on my keyboard. Yes, he’s right.  I  accepted the invitation and signed up for the KMWP Advanced Leadership Institute (ALI), and at that moment I am wondering what I was thinking.

The next day as I am reading my draft to my ALI writing group, at  some point in my writing I call myself a “literary expert”. My writing group laughs. I mean face it, we all know I’m no Harold Bloom. While my group is discussing my piece,  the Kennesaw Mountain Writing Project  Director of Institutes asks me how many years I’ve taught. When I tell him 16, he says we may laugh but that does qualify me as expert. I like the way that sounds, expert. Joining forces and working and writing closely with college professors and working together as teacher writers and collaborators  to better  teach children and college students–this is the real stuff of college and career readiness. Yes, I chose this!

After an arduous day of writing groups, research writing, and collaboration, I sit at a table at a local restaurant for beverages and appetizers among my like-minded KMWP middle school teaching peers. Our conversation moves quickly in many directions: YA authors, , DFTBA, TED Talks, pedagogy of grammar instruction (from grammar and diagramming to Jeff Anderson), close reading and Beers and Probst, applications to Gallagher’s book Write Like This, and school struggles. I am amazed to be sitting with three other women with whom this pedagogical dialogue is so natural and so invigorating. We talk of how these  conversations rarely happen at our schools and how few teachers follow research and pedagogy. We are all able to keep up with the conversation, and wow, it’s good stuff! Yes, I chose this!

I am in my niche among like-minded teachers who enjoy reading professional literature, who take instructional risks, who challenge the status quo. We might be nerdy. We might be curriculum geeks (that’s what my husband affectionately calls me). In other contexts, we might stand out as different, but at this table at this moment with my KMWP peers I am normalacy and not an anomaly. Yes, I chose this.

How could I choose anything else?

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6 thoughts on “I Choose This

  1. Maya, I do understand. Some teachers simply are not interested, are they? I’m so glad you found good companions. And, what are you trying to do with your school-wide initiative? I led our retreat with a colleague a few years ago where we conducted a writers workshop with the staff-all the parts! Is that what you’re looking for? If you are interested, contact me and I’ll share more.

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  2. Paul

    Sixteen years? Me too.

    We make tough choices to challenge ourselves, and this hits at our divided nature — we want to be challenged, but we don’t. So it’s perfectly natural to grouse about what we have chosen for ourselves. The solace as a teacher is to realize how much power we really do have to create the life we want. By the end of your post, this becomes clear and you are feeling the power. Keep feeling it! 🙂

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  3. Jaana

    You have the right questions which in turn will lead you to the right answers. You have the attitude of a servant not a dictator as you approach your school-wide initiative. Good luck for your summer endeavor!

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