Here we are. The last day of the 2020 TWT SOLC event. Thirty one days of writing and posting and commenting. What now?
What I want to keep doing:
Write every day.
Pay close attention to the world, and think, “I’m going to write about that!”
Stay close to my writing colleagues.
Write to remember.
Write to imagine.
Write to understand (or at least try to understand).
Write for fun.
Write to help others.
What I want to try next:
Spend more time revising and crafting my writing.
Work on one project over a number of days or weeks, or longer.
Try out some different genres.
Get specific feedback on my writing.
Revise it some more.
Maybe try to publish something (OK, I like to dream big!).
I do plan to continue posting some writing on Tuesdays with TWT. I couldn’t even imagine my life without this community.
It’s hard for me to come to terms with the fact that the 2020 TWT SOLC is coming to a close. I have needed this experience and relied on this community over the past few weeks in ways I never imagined. I’ve always enjoyed the month of March. I’ve always felt proud of myself for writing every day for 31 days. I’ve always loved the writers I have met along the way, some of us staying connected over many years. But this year was different. This year, the TWT Slice of Life Challenge has helped me survive. It has helped me feel grounded. It has helped me stay somewhat sane. And for that, I say thank you, Two Writing Teachers (TY, TWT).
I remember back to February, when I was already starting to think about some writing projects for March’s challenge. My plan was to do some of the writing work that we were asking kids to do so that I could use my writing as a model for instruction. Who knew then what kind of crazy turn we would take in March. I abandoned those plans pretty quickly, and began writing to try to figure out what my life was going to be like as it was now being hijacked by the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Writing over the past few weeks has helped me to express feelings and try to figure out life in a pandemic. Writing has helped me to work through some tough situations and also share some of the beautiful things that were happening in spite of (or maybe as a result of) this virus. TWT has helped me to connect with others, and to hear their stories and how they were managing through this novel event. And then there were the comments. Hearing how people were responding to each other made me feel so connected, and so cared for. Writing and commenting has helped me find meaning in the midst of this crisis.
Thanks to TWT, people from all over the world spent a month connecting with each other through writing and commenting during a time when many of us were feeling so isolated, so frightened, and so on edge.
TY, TWT! I don’t know what I’m going to do without you when April arrives.
The girls have decided that we should put together a fancy party tonight. The guest list is, of course, rather small. OK, just us, but that is fine with me. They have decided on an event that includes elegant appetizers and champagne. I think I heard one of them suggest that we all get dressed up (That’s not my idea of fun, but I’ll do it if it’s called for.) And I suggested that we end the evening with a dance party (That is my idea of fun!).
So today we are spending the day together planning, shopping. and cooking. Daughter One has been in the kitchen most of the day chopping and making and simmering and putting together some sort of elegant galette! Daughter Two is planning to put together some shrimp cocktail and baked brie. Husband One (OK, there is only one.) is making dates wrapped in bacon, and my job is to bake the brownies (Not that elegant, but everyone agreed it would be a great way to end the night!).
I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday. We’ve all been off screens all day (except maybe to look up a recipe or two), no one has had a Google Meet or Zoom Meeting. We have just been hanging out together reading the paper, talking, and just relaxing.
Let’s pop that champagne and let the party begin!
I am perseverating on my day. I’m stuck in an emotional state that I don’t want to be stuck in. I’m feeling guilty and sad. I’ve taken a walk. I’ve played some ping pong with my daughter. I’ve tried to relax. I’m still stuck. A friend and colleague and fellow slicer calls this state paralysis by analysis. This same person advised me a while ago that writing a letter had helped her improve her emotional state. I’m going to give it a try.
Dear Friend and Colleague and Thought Partner,
I’m so sorry.
I know we had an open and honest conversation this afternoon.
I know we are OK.
I know we will move forward and continue to do amazing work together.
I’m so sorry.
I know my flurry of anxious early morning texts were filled with stress.
I know my emails were confusing and maybe even a bit terse.
I know I wasn’t my best self.
I’m so sorry.
You did not make me upset.
I made myself upset.
I could blame it on a really hard two weeks of distance learning.
I could blame it on not getting enough exercise.
I could even blame it on COVID-19.
But I’m not going to do that.
I don’t really know why I got so upset.
Every day has felt confusing and unclear and hard.
I don’t know why I got so worked up today.
I’m so sorry.
As I sit working and Google Meeting and Zooming and Flip Gridding all day in my new “office” (a desk and chair I moved into the guest room by the window), I feel alone. This is somewhat ironic because my house is more crowded than it has been in years due to the fact that our girls are home. It’s just that during the day, I’m up in my office, sitting at my desk. I have been eating breakfast, and sometimes lunch, alone while I prepare for the day or try to eat something between meetings. I have struggled to learn some of the technology needed to do this work. I’ve tried to problem-solve on my own. I’ve watched videos on Screencastify over and over just to try to figure out how to add the extension to Chrome. And that is only the very first step of actually using this technology! After the Meets and Zooms and Hangouts are over, there are SO many emails to read and respond to, so I sit at my desk by the window trying to catch up.
But this afternoon I felt anything but alone. This afternoon I joined (for the second week in a row) the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project’s Office Hours with Lucy Calkins and colleagues. The topic was how to teach during a pandemic. As the Zoom meeting started, educators started joining. The list grew and grew and grew. Hundreds and hundreds (possibly thousands) of teachers from around the world were logging in. It was overwhelming and exciting and so very uplifting. Lucy welcomed us all and, as always, inspired us to be our best selves so that we can help students and families navigate this pandemic. She encouraged us to be innovative and to be responsive. Then teachers began to ask questions, and the TCRWP staff responded. All the while, the chat box was filling with questions, suggestions, links, and ideas. Teachers are doing such incredible work in such desperate times. They are creating materials since their materials are still in school buildings. They are finding all sorts of ways to connect with kids. They are providing support and professional development for families (as this is all new to them too), and they are teaching their hearts out.
This afternoon, I realized that I am not alone. In fact, I am part of something that is big and new and important. I have colleagues around the globe. We are walking side by side, and we are all here to hold each other up.
Thank you, Lucy and TCRWP, for making me part of something big.
Years ago, when I was a third grade teacher, I read something by children’s author Mem Fox about what she keeps in her writing notebook. She shared a page that showed a list of things she loved and things she loathed (I love that word, loathed. It just sounds so dark and bad and hateful.). Here is that entry:
I love these things
- My family and friends
- World peace
- A full moon
- Green paper clips
- Saturday mornings
- ABC Radio National
- Social justice
- A clean kitchen sink
- 19th century novels
- Singing alone in the car
I loathe these things
- The effect of war on children
- Brown clothes
- Economic rationalism
- Cleaning up dog vomit
- Racial intolerance
- Identical letters from a class
- Land mines
- Mobile phones in airport lounges
- Right wing newspaper column
I just loved it, so my students and I decided to try it in our notebooks. It led to some pretty good writing. Kids especially loved writing about the things they hated! Maybe we don’t ask them about what they hate very often.
I thought I’d give it a try for our current pandemic-shut-in-distance learning situation.
I love these things
Waking without an alarm
Being surrounded by my family all day and night
Only concerning myself with my clothes from the waist up
Learning new ways to deliver instruction
Not having to run errands
Playing games and watching movies with my family at night
I loathe these things
Sitting at a desk all day long
The absence of student interaction
Not seeing colleagues, friends, and family in person
Hours spent on screens
Everything taking me so long since everything is so new
Missing my dad
The closing of the town parks
Watching the news
What are your loves and loathings?
I really don’t want to write tonight.
My brain is on overload.
Maybe I’ll just skip a slice.
Would anyone really notice? Would anyone really care?
I’m so tired.
I don’t want to sit in a chair in front of a screen for another second.
I would just be missing ONE day.
Out of 31 days.
But it’s day #25.
I’ve made it this far.
I can’t miss a day.
It just wouldn’t be right.
So I sit here and try to write something.
It’s not good.
It’s not thoughtful.
It’s not meaningful.
But there is writing on the page.
I guess that’s something.