It is not the end. It is simply the beginning

Follow this link to my blog post on fallingdowntherabbitholecalledlife.

-C

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Rules 24 Outcomes

I was really lost when I started this class and I wasn’t sure how I was going to pass. If I only I could go back to the beginning of the semester and tell myself not to worry you are going to learn everything you need to know and you will do fine. The rule 24 outcomes guide this course and upon reflection on them I realize everything in them I learned through this course. Standard five was the one that caught my eye right away:

Standard 5. Candidates plan, implement, assess, and reflect on research-based instruction that increases motivation and active student engagement, builds sustained learning of English Language Arts, and responds to diverse students’ context-based needs.

Almost all our blogs this semester and all our weekly’s were researched based. Dr. Miller gave us free range to explore what we wanted but we had to ground our ideas in research. It did motivate me because as a future teacher I need to know my material if I am going to be able to teach my students. I don’t expect to know everything but I should know the material I am teaching and I should be able to back up my theories and practices with research. I want my students to be motivated and active in their learning because they should be there because they want to learn not because they were told they have to come to class and learn.

My favorite part of this semester was the reflection on these practices. Some ideas that I had in my head that I wanted to implement in my classroom were ideas that Dr. Miller and everyone else in the class showed me through discussion weren’t such good ideas. If we hadn’t reflected on a class on our weebly posts or even our pedagogy’s I might be doing stuff in my classroom that would make my students hate me.

I love standard six because education is politics and knowing how to create a class that can affectively address all students.

Standard 6. Candidates demonstrate knowledge of how theories and research about social justice, diversity, equity, student identities, and schools as institutions can enhance students’ opportunities to learn in English Language Arts.

Element 1. Candidates plan and implement English Language Arts and literacy instruction that promotes social justice and critical engagement with complex issues related to maintaining a diverse, inclusive, equitable society.

This standard reminds me of literacy in the classroom and what Eli said about English first. English is my first language, but if someone were to tell me I cannot speak my first language in the classroom I would be upset. That’s not social justice. Contemporary theories are a big deal in the classroom today, and if I hadn’t taken the time to sit in class and listen to Reagan and Eli I might not have thought about language in the classroom. I want my classroom to be a place where students feel that they can be themselves. I don’t want my students feeling like they must conform to belong.

I learned so much this semester and I don’t want to get too much into what I want to talk about in my last blog but everything that these outcomes talk about I learned.

-C

Dear Parents and Students

Dear Parents and Students,

My name is Carlie Enns and I am a recent graduate of Chadron State College. I will be teaching English this year and I am beyond excited to show you (student) that English isn’t just grammar and writing papers, even though we will be doing some of those. I wasn’t a huge fan of English myself in high school and in fact I just really loved reading. It really wasn’t until I got to college and started telling people I was an English Ed. major when I realized this is what I wanted to do. I always heard the groan that usually accompanies one saying they are an English major and the typical quip “I hated English in high school”. I am here to change your opinion about English and by the end of the school year I would like you and your fellow classmates to be able to say you are readers and you like English!

How am I going to accomplish this? I have so many fun ideas to implement in my classroom this year to turn you into a reader and writer but it all starts with YOU as the student. I was a shy kid in high school and rarely spoke up but when I did what I said didn’t always align with what the teacher wanted and I felt like I lost my voice before I even found it. I don’t want that to happen with you. I want you to be able to find your voice and explore it through writing, discussion, and reading.

Writing

Each one of you will have a reading journal which will be your safe place to explore your voice. It can function as whatever you want: a place to write about political issues affecting you, a thought you just cannot get out of your head, maybe a writing prompt you saw on the board, or maybe you are exploring topics for a paper (yes, you will have to write some of those). I will post daily prompts on the board but I don’t require you to use these in your reading journal rather use them as a starting point. I also wish to start a class blog in which you, the student, can explore professional writing and getting your voice out there in the world instead of just in the classroom. There will be papers, oh the dreaded papers, but the best way to explore writing is through choice so most if not all of these papers will be on topics of your choice and broad enough to tailor to each and every one of you.

Discussion

Everyone hates getting up in front of the class and presenting but consider, your teacher, me, does that everyday for a living. I choose to get up in front of 18+ students a day and talk. I want to draw you into that conversation and explore literature, grammar, current events, historical events, what was for lunch that day; I want to hear your voice. It’s great to develop voice in papers but it is also great develop your voice through conversation and discussion. I want to hear what you have to say and I want you to know that you have an voice and it deserves to be heard.

Reading

I know reading isn’t everyone’s favorite thing and honestly there are some days I would rather binge watch Netflix then read but reading only strengthens your voice because it gives you credibility. It gives you sources and a wealth of information on the subject you are interested in and voicing for. It’s also secretly a lot of fun to read. 3e47e38c728a44f4327a97a6783cc3ca.jpg

Don’t let your brain convince you reading is boring; it’s like watching a movie in your head! I have way too many ideas for turning all of you into readers to fit in one letter, but a quick overview: determining how many pages we can read in a week and setting goals, book conferences/book talks, themed bookshelves, and monthly featured books. Also, I am going to try my hardest not to make you read books you hate and invisibly spark note (I have been there so I know when students have used spark notes instead of actually reading), instead I am going to guide you toward books you will love and stay up late into the night reading simply because you couldn’t put it down.

Parents, I want you to know your kid is in safe hands with me and at the end of the year will be stronger writers and stronger readers. This change won’t happen overnight and they may not be where they should be at the end of the year simply because good writing does not happen overnight. It takes time, dedication, and effort. Your child will need your support and encouragement especially as they learn their own voice. Don’t let them give up.

Students, I am excited to be your teacher and excited to journey with you as we explore English like never before and discover our own voices.

Your English Teacher,

Ms. Enns

 

Principles:

You have a voice, don’t let anyone take it away from you

Readers write, and writers read

The teacher is never 100% right

Don’t ever be afraid to ask a question or join the discussion

Writing is about exploring the world around you

Reading is about understanding the world around you

 

But how do you teach writing?

But how do you teach writing is actually the title of a book by Barry Lane that my brother’s girlfriend is reading to help her prepare for the fall semester. She is going to be teaching high school English, however she got her certification in theatre education so she’s been doing a lot of preparing for the fall. She has been reading a lot and doing  a lot of studying to prepare and as I talked with her about writing it occurred to me, how do you teach writing?

I can honestly say high school did not prepare me to teach writing but college has done wonders for my writing in general. But that doesn’t really answer the question how to teach writing and even after listening to my classmates, my professor, and reading blogs all semester all I can say about teaching writing is to encourage students to write and to be constantly giving feedback. When I was a senior in high school I had to write a five-eight page research paper and it was worth a huge chunk of my grade. I think my teacher read one draft before I turned it in and we worked on that paper for two months.  The only time I ever had the opportunity in a high school classroom to turn in a paper as many times as I wanted to keep getting constant feedback was in a science class. I was never really encouraged to write in my English classes and looking back I find that really odd. I always wrote the required amount of papers but my teachers never encouraged me to write for myself or to explore my own voice in writing. The biggest takeaway from this semester I have got and will be taking with me into the classroom is the lack of voice students are given in their writing. I wrote for the teacher and not for myself because I was never encouraged to give an opinion that differed from the teacher.

I want my classroom to be a safe environment where students are free to be themselves and are free to voice an opinion without fear of being told they are wrong. This often times happens in our writings and if we as teachers tell students they cannot have a voice in their writing and they must write what I want to hear they will never become independent thinkers. They will never be able to critically analyze an article because they will be trying to figure out what the teacher wants them to think. It’s exactly like entering a Dr. Miller class for the first time and being told you have a voice and it matters. You (as the student) flounders because you’ve never been given a voice before and you don’t know what to do with it. I had a fellow classmate tell me the other day that she hates writing and I know where she is coming from. I want to be a high school English teacher because of the groan I get whenever I tell people “I’m going to be a high school English teacher” and their response every time is “I hated English in high school”. It is like seeing a Unicorn when I hear someone tell me they loved English in high school and they are not a English major.

Feedback can come in various forms and I have experienced all of them. I have experienced the people who marked up my papers with a red pen correcting everything that possibly could be corrected and making me feel like a lousy writer. I have experienced vague feedback that tells me nothing, verbal feedback that I forget the instant I stop talking to the teacher, and peer review feedback that helped and hindered. I don’t think there is a perfect way to “grade” someone’s writing because, at least to me, writing is personal and when you grade their writing you are grading the person. I once watched a high school debate, I promise this has a point, and ended up giving the student whose opinion I didn’t agree with my vote simply because his argument was stronger. This showed me that it doesn’t matter whether or not you like the student or what they have to say, it all matters on whether or not it proves itself. What do I mean by that? I read a fellow students paper once and honestly it was one of the best pieces of writing that happened that day in the classroom. It had terrible grammar, poor structure throughout and yet I liked it the best over everyone else’s simply because it was good and it proved itself.

Teaching writing isn’t easy because there are going to be those days where you just want the student to write something you can grade in ten minutes because you have thirty more papers to grade, lessons to plan, sub lessons, professional development and the list goes on. You will be tempted to use a rubric because it gives you something to look for in their paper without actually having read it. Some days you will just grade content and hope they have it all their and you can just tell them “good job!” without actually telling them why they did a good job and they will continue to think they are good until they get back their first college paper and it is a B-, a grade they have never gotten before in their life (on an English paper). Teaching writing is about caring for every single one of your students reading their papers, and giving feedback where it matters and not just “good job!” but feedback that will help them improve next time. Most importantly of all encourage your students to write and not just for a grade. Encourage them to write for themselves and for the world. I am just now starting to write papers and read articles, books, and blogs on topics I find interesting because I am being encouraged to. Sometimes all students need is a little choice.

-C

The Writer’s Notebook

What is a writer’s notebook? In my blog from last week I mentioned my old Lisa Frank notebook that I wrote in, but when I was a kid I never really thought about it being a writer’s notebook. I never really put a label on any of my notebooks until I was a junior in college in Dr. Coughlin’s creative writing course, and he told us we should keep a writing notebook or journal. I prefer to call it a notebook, but some of my entries are journalistic in nature. However, I digress so back to the question at hand, what is a writer’s notebook? Everyone will inevitably define it as something different, but what it boils down to is a safe place to just write. I wish someone had told me that when I was younger and if they had I might have a much different opinion about writing then I do now, (no fear Dr. Miller, it is changing).

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I always wanted my writing to be perfect and if it wasn’t I just gave up. That is what I loved so much about Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird because she said it was ok to have a shitty first draft and where you have that draft is usually in your writer’s notebook. It is a safe place for students to explore form, style, voice, genre or whatever they feel like writing about. None of my high school teachers encouraged me to keep a writer’s notebook and I wish so desperately they had. I still have a wild imagination and countless stories running through my brain, but as a kid I had no outlet for them. My high school English teachers didn’t encourage me to write  ( don’t get me wrong here, I loved my middle and high school English teachers, however there is always room for improvement) and when they did it was all about required papers, or poems or short stories, never free writing-whatever form that takes.

I borrowed a book from a classmate this last week called A Writer’s Notebook by Ralph Fletcher and I’m really glad she had it. I had just been looking at copies of it on Amazon debating whether or not getting Amazon Prime just for one book was justifiable enough when she pulled it out of her backpack and let me borrow it. I actually haven’t read all of it but what I read so far is practicable, applicable and easy to understand. My favorite section so far is entitled “Writing Small”. It’s all about the details not the big picture-learning to be in the moment and not just an observer. It’s such a simple concept with a big reward. “Seed Ideas” was another great section because it talked about writing down the snippets of life. Just the other day at Wal-Mart I was watching this (maybe) one year old grab a leaf off the celery and just stare at it stuck to his finger. It was such an innocent childlike moment and I thought about it all day. Just today I had a little kid tell me “tank you” and it reminded me of the one year old from the day before. I don’t know if anything big will come of it but it’s the small moments that are the seeds for something more. Last semester we had an author come to campus and for the life of me I cannot remember her name even though I bought her book, which I gave to my dad…anyways she told my creative writing class about a time she was walking down the street and saw that someone had written on the sidewalk in chalk “You are in big trouble when you get home!”. She said it just stuck in her mind like a little seed and later helped her form a story. I often get an idea stuck in my head and cannot get it out until I write it down and as soon as it is on the page I move on because I know it will always be there waiting for me.

My absolute favorite teacher movie of all time is Freedom Writers and if I am being honest it was one of my inspirations for becoming a teacher and why I want to teach in a school that doesn’t have all the bells and whistles. The teacher who inspired the story Erin Gruwell gave her students plain blank composition notebooks and told them to write. What came out of those notebooks is beyond words and if I can be half the teacher she was then I’ll look back and be pleased. I want my students to have that safe place to just write instead of worrying about what I will think or how I will grade. If my students are truly going to get better at writing then they need a place where they can experiment, learn voice, and just write without fear of pressure, or the teacher.

-C

My life as a writer…

I’ve actually been thinking about this blog post a lot and as usual any time I actually write something it happens past ten o’clock.

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Past

If I were to start at the beginning of my writerly life it would be a lot of halfhearted attempts at writing a “novel” or what my ten year old brain thought a novel was. I don’t think I kept those early Lisa Frank notebooks that contained the ramblings of a child but they helped me start writing. I actually hated English in elementary school but that also needs some context to understand what I meant by “hate”.

My mom homeschooled me and she used a rather advanced form of curriculum because she had heard a lot of good things about it from other home school moms. I have nothing against grammar and in fact I think grammar is fascinating like how pre-med students find the human body fascinating, but probably from third grade on a lot of my English curriculum involved grammar and learning parts of speech, diagramming, sentence structure and so on. I enjoyed reading far more than I did grammar so I spent far more time with my head stuck in a book than in writing. In fact I hated writing papers and would not have told you I wanted to grow up to be a high school English teacher (I wanted to be an artist until I realized I have no artistic talent). I had some pretty amazing English teachers throughout middle school and high school that made me realize that English was much more than just grammar and that is where my love of everything words came from but I would have to say my writing life started in eighth grade with poetry.

My advisor would be very pleased to hear at one time I actually enjoyed writing poetry because there might still be hope for me. I had the opposite experience with poetry than I did with my English classes. I wrote a lot of poetry in eighth grade for class and just for myself and even though I know I wasn’t any good I enjoyed writing poetry. I don’t “hate” poetry now but I would rather hear-sometimes-nails scratching against a chalk board then listen to poetry being read. I think poetry was ruined for me when we started analyzing it in class and I was the student in the back thinking “Oh for (insert expletive here) it shouldn’t be this hard to figure out what the author was saying”. I enjoy “searching for the deeper meaning” more then I used to but still poetry will never be my favorite simply because to me it feels like the authors are trying to say something with the least amount of words possible and in the process evoke a feeling all the while leaving us wonder what exactly the heck they were saying. However, that is what I love about poets and their art. They leave me wondering for days on end what exactly they were trying to say all the while leaving me with a feeling of completeness. I don’t think I will ever write much poetry again because fiction and ranting on my blog have become my main focus, but poetry gave me my start and for that I am grateful.

Present

My writing life right now is a lot more relaxed than it used to be. I never had someone tell me I could have a shitty first draft and that was ok. I was stuck in the mentality that everything I wrote had to be perfect and for a long time I hated writing simply because everything I wrote was awful. I learned somewhere along the way shitty first drafts happen, and now sometimes I just write with no end goal in mind other than just writing. I have so many stories floating around in my brain that sometimes I just panic because I can’t get them all written down, and I have to remind myself that writing should be for me first, my intended audience second and my unintended audience third. I do write for myself now and occasionally for teachers but mostly for myself. I keep a reading journal and by journal I mean whenever I remember to write, want to write or just have an idea that I cannot get out of my head until I write it down. It’s not consistent but it keeps me sane and it keeps me writing. For the longest time I wrote for the publisher/teacher; always envisioning what they would think of my  work without asking myself what I think of my own work. I struggled with voice because I was always told to write for the teacher and never for myself. I changed that.

Future

I don’t see myself winning the Nobel Prize in Literature nor do I really see myself getting published someday. I would like to write the novel I always wanted to see on the shelves but I am not longer writing it with the publisher in mind. I am writing with myself in mind and what I needed to read as an insecure, lonely, depressed, confused, lost, self-judging pre-teen who needed to find herself in literature. I was exploring my own voice through poetry and fiction, but ultimately I needed to be able to find myself in other people and in their works. I read to escape reality but sometimes just sometimes I would like to find a mirror in literature that tells me I am not alone. That is what I would like to write and whether or not it be fiction, a blog series, critical essays, a memoir, or a children’s book I want to write for myself first, my audience second.

-C

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

I was actually going to read Stephen King’s novel On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, however due to a clerical error (I had an old version of the syllabus) I ended up reading Bird by Bird, because if I am being honest it was the cheaper e-book and I didn’t really want to do Stephen King because everyone else was probably going to review Stephen King and so far I am right.

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Summary

I really enjoyed reading this book because Anne teaches creative writings courses and for me this first section of her book Part One: Writing could be used to teach a creative writing class. There are thirteen sections within Part One that each cover a part of the writing process and I enjoyed reading the first part more than the other four mainly because I am at that stage in my writing where I need guidance. Section two and four weren’t that exciting for me because section two covers the psychology of writing and section four covers the world of publishing. I am not ready for any of my major works to be published and personally I didn’t really think that pertained to this class even though getting published is a part of the writing process because that is the point where you are ready for the world to see your work.

The most important thing I took away from the first section Writing was the shitty first draft, those are her words not mine and frankly I like them. I wish someone would have come along when I was younger and told my first draft could be a big stinky pile of dog shit and that was ok because no one would see it in the first place and secondly I was just getting my ideas out on paper. My first draft didn’t have to be perfect but as a young writer I truly believed that. I struggled with writing a lot as a kid because I thought everything I wrote should be ready for a publisher to look at. Granted I was just a kid but I kept this thinking with me for a very long time.

The second most important thing I took away was writing groups and how important it is to have someone review your work and give you an honest but gentle opinion. I never had anyone review my work growing up but then again there was no one I trusted to look at my work. When I was finally able to give my writing to my fellow peers in a classroom setting and get workshopped it was the greatest experience of my life, up to this point. My one saving grace however was that some comments I took to heart and others I just ignored simply because I knew what comments were helping and what others really wouldn’t help my work at all. Lamott talks about this in her book; have someone you trust review your work and if all they do is tear your work apart and don’t offer any encouragement get someone knew to review your work. You don’t need that negativity in your life and you don’t need it to discourage you from writing.

Things I didn’t Quite Agree With

There really was only one thing I didn’t agree with and then something that contradicted what I have been taught. It was her suggestion that you let the characters guide themselves and let the story guide itself as well. I’ve always been taught to have the end in mind and write toward that end goal. Lamott quotes E.L. Doctorow who says writing is like driving a car at night because you can only see two feet in front of you and that’s all you really need to see. I can see how that would work for some people because they have an idea of a story but don’t quite know the ending, but personally for me I want to know the ending because I just don’t want to sit down start writing and then waste time because I can’t make my story  work because I don’t the ending. It could be that I want more control and Lamott is saying to let go of that control, but if I lose control over my story then I just stare at the blank pages. My characters lose motivation, they lose purpose and frankly I don’t like to write without an ending in mind. Maybe the ending changes as the story goes but if I don’t have some idea of the ending then I don’t know why I am writing in the first place.

What does this mean for US?

What does Anne Lamott’s book for us as future teachers/writers? Coming from an educational lens I think this book is good for giving guidelines on how to teach writing/creative writing and it’s very practical in doing so. She writes in a impersonal style that can apply to anyone reading it and can be easily adapted to a classroom. She’s detailed and funny, but most importantly she understands her craft. I have always thought that people who understand their craft well write the best textbooks then people who are just writing for the money. I don’t get that feel from Lamott and even though I disagree on some things I really do think this is a good book to read if you are starting out writing or have hit a slump. It’s also helpful for teaching because each section is fleshed out and well written.

-C