Monday would have been my Dad’s 70th birthday! I told my students about his birthday and a little about him. Suddenly I had a brilliant idea…”You have homework tonight!” I announced to surprised moans and groans. Before the complaining got carried away, I told them their assignment included a choice. Here’s what I said, “For homework tonight, I want you to do something kind for someone else. Go out of your way. Surprise someone…to honor my dad. He did that all the time.”
The grumbling quieted because they realized this was no ordinary assignment. “The other choice is eat ice cream.” I was met with blank stares and looks of confusion. “Dad’s favorite food was ice cream. I want his memory to live on, so go home tonight and have some ice cream. When you ask your parents for ice cream, tell them why.”
I have never seen so many students scramble to write down an assignment before. Here’s one of my favorite agendas:
I announced the success of the assignment on Instagram with my own picture of ice cream, Friendly’s Peppermint Stick…
The next day students in my other classes heard about the assignment and begged for their homework. They told their parents. They performed acts of kindness and they ate ice cream…
All because of my Dad! Love you, Dad!
I’m grateful for…
1. my loving, crazy, amazing family
2. my brave, hard working, sometimes silly students
3. my loving, grace-filled, kind friends
4. books to read
5. notebooks to fill
6. just the right pens
7. my sweet Bella
8. peppermint coffee
9. soft, warm, cozy blankets
10. writing to soothe my soul
11. traveling to discover
13. sense of accomplishment
16. daily phone chats with mom
17. warm socks
18. bubble bath
19. memories of dad
22. showing up
Being grateful…expressing gratitude…it’s contagious and powerful. It can change my mood and change my day. What’s on your list?
I’ve been writing since I was nine years old. I started writing because I am a rule follower. Writing was assigned in school. I wrote what the teacher wanted to read. At nine, my mom bought me my first notebook. This is where the fun began. Now, my audience was me. I didn’t have to answer someone else’s question or prompt. Still, my writing followed a traditional diary format. Each day I wrote about my day and not much more. I wrote poetry too. As I grew, I wrote about my dreams.
College was when my writing helped me figure out problems. I’d write when I was lonely. I’d write when I was confused. Writing always helped me feel better. I remained my only audience. No one else got to see those words.
As an adult, I took more risks with my writing. I tried more poetry and a little bit of fiction. Writing became a friend…ever by my side. I brought my writing, my notebook, with me wherever I went. I never felt alone again. Writing always had my back.
The Northern Virginia Writing Project changed me as a writer. This group gave me an audience…encouragement…and courage to share my story. The NVWP showed me that I had a story to tell and nudged me to write. For the last ten years, I’ve continued to write but now I write for more than just me. I blog. I write for my students. I share my writing.
Why do I write? I must. I have a story to tell. Writing forces me to reflect, which in turn helps me grow as a teacher and as a person. Writing helps me untangle life. Writing gives me time to observe things happening around me through my words. Writing allows me to express myself.
Three years ago during a Twitter chat, I read a tweet by Penny Kittle that sparked the creation of my personal blog…
This is why I write. Please take a moment and celebrate the National Day on Writing, October 20th! #WhyIWrite
Why do you write?
Today we will mine our notebooks for our stories. We are looking for stories of our lives. When someone writes a book with lots of stories of their lives, it’s called a memoir.
We are going to work on a mini-memoir. It’s called a slice of life. It’s a story you want to share from your life. It’s about a moment. We will start reading slices like writers. We will be looking for what makes a good slice of life as we embark on a journey to create our own individual slices of life. What kind of stories do you have to tell?
Yesterday I got to spend a day with a writer, and not just any writer…Nora Raleigh Baskin. She is kind and generous. She is smart and funny. She made yesterday a day we will all remember for a long time.
I picked her up at her hotel in the morning. We chatted for the entire ride to school. She’s so easy to talk to and we have so much to share. At school, things get set up. The technology magically works and kids begin arriving. I could feel the excitement. So many people stopped and listened to her talk, but the sixth graders were so excited. (I’ll get reactions today in class.)
She talked about how she got the idea for the book, what it was like writing about an event like 9/11, and how it was like writing four books in one. Throughout her talk, she engaged the students and asked them questions. She talked about how books are windows and mirrors to the reader. She talked about the hard work of writing and revising and research.
During lunch, she asked the teachers for feedback on her presentations. What do you think? How is it going? Nora is a great listener. When she listens you feel like the most important person in the world.
She signed book after book after book. She took her time and really talked to the students as she signed. One student told her his idea about a book. Another student shared the research she did about Nora. Nora listened intently and her face lit up when the kids shared these things with her.
She graciously posed for pictures. She talked about how she became a writer. In sixth grade, her teacher read her story to the class. He said it was the best one. In that moment, she decided to be a writer. One student asked for advice to young writers and her answer was, “Write your truth. Write from the heart.”
I’m rereading this post and it’s like a book report of the day, but I don’t want to forget a moment. Here are some of the things she said,
“Writing healed me.”
“Writing is magical.”
“I use a new notebook and a new pen when I start a new book.”
“Words are very important to me.”
On a personal level, Nora is a new friend. A day like yesterday is a dream come true. I’m grateful to Nora for her precious time. I’m grateful for everyone who helped pull this together. I can’t wait to hear what the students think!
We are writing. We are writing every single day. Each class begins with sacred writing time. Students use their notebooks to write, to think, to make lists, to play with words, to create poetry. I had my first opportunity to read through these precious pages and I’ve struck gold. There is so much risk taking going on! I notice creativity. I see messy pages with evidence of good thinking. It’s so exciting.
Our notebooks are being noticed by others too. Linda Urban is an author who has expressed an interest in our notebooks. She’s invited the students to write about permission. Here are some of their pages. Amy Ludwig VanDerwater is a poet who has inspired us to create word lists and write poetry from those lists. Here are some poems.
Here’s a page that made me smile! What a compliment…
As I sit here, all of you (the students) have gone home. The classroom is quiet. I’m thinking about the day. It was perfect. Learning names and watching you meet each means that we are already building our classroom community! Talking about YOU MATTER and how we will live that this year brings me such hope!
Reading aloud is always one of my most favorite parts of class. I hope you enjoyed School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex. It’s a new favorite of mine. The mind maps you are making are so creative and I get to learn more about you. I think my favorite part is reading your writing. I can’t wait until you finish your writing and I can read the letters and sentences. When you write, you share a part of yourself. I’m grateful that I get to read your writing.
I can’t wait for day two!
Welcome to Room C10. We will spend time together every day this year. We will be reading and writing a lot! I have spent lots of time preparing and I have a few surprises ready for you. If you are wondering what it takes to be successful in this class, the answer is easy…
Do your best.
This is going to be a great year! Please stop by our class Twitter account at @haseltineclass and our class Instagram at @haseltineclass. We have a facebook page too: Ms. Haseltine’s Class.
I can’t wait to get started!
Bella LOVES her new blanket.