#teacherswrite experience=INSPIRATION

 

If you teach writing in K-12img_5103-1 you must experience #teacherswrite. Look for more information on Kate Messner’s Blog. This is a summer program (free) where teachers can experience minilessons, quick writes, and feedback, from REAL authors, to inspire teachers to write. Don’t you think you’d be a better teacher if you were a better writer? Makes sense right?!

I’ve always been afraid of writing. During my school experience, I was more confident with Math and Science. I felt okay about the rest. After becoming an avid reader in my adult years and seeing the positive impact on my teaching, I thought, “Why not become an avid writer?” This is what lead me to #teacherswrite. I fell upon it because I’m active on Twitter. (BTW, the best teacher professional development out there. If you are not on Twitter for education, you MUST be!)

Now I am writing every day. I am inspired. I plan to write at least half an hour every day from here on out. I will share my plan and my writing with my students. I am eager to teach writing. YAY!!

So, now for the hard part. I am posting below some writing I am currently working on. I know I have a LOT to learn and more I can improve on. But, I will not get there without practice, without failure. I need to be brave and share. Just like I will expect my students to do. If their teacher is taking a leap of faith, my students might just be willing to as well. I hope. Here it is. Feel free to comment.

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Three months later, I sit in the doctor’s office waiting for my name to be called. It is a nicely decorated with black and white photos of the city, but I stick out like a sore thumb. The waiting room is full of old people. Some with oxygen machines, walkers, canes. I believe I am the only one here below the age of 60 besides my mom. It is a rheumatology office, which apparently affects mostly the elderly. I guess Dr. Sail hopes this new doctor can figure out what is going on with me.

 

One old guy walks to the door when his name is called. He has one of those walkers you hold onto to help you balance. Every movement he makes looks painful. I cannot help but think, “Could I end up like him?”

“Liz.” calls the nurse.

My mom and I follow her like baby ducks into the examination room. The nurse checks my vitals and asks, “How have you been since your last appointment with your pediatrician, Dr. Sail? He sent us all your records and felt Dr. Pillman might be able to help you.”

“Have you watched any zombie movies lately?” I retort.

“No, why?” the nurse replies, looking at me like I am crazy.

“Well, you know how a zombie looks and acts in movies? That is how I feel inside. Dead.”

“O-kay,” and the nurse rolls her eyes.

“Except for the wanting to eat people of course!” I assure the nurse.

“Glad to see you still have your sense of humor Liz.” The nurse whispered as she shook her head. I could almost read her mind, thinking I am a crazy, mentally messed-up teenager. “Dr. Pillman will be in with you shortly.”

Waiting for the doctor is like waiting for the ketchup to come out of a brand new bottle at a restaurant. All I want is for the doctor to fix this and Mom is just sitting there reading a magazine. “Mom!” I shout.  His name is Dr. PILLman. Come on! Can’t he just give me a pill to make it all go away? Isn’t that what doctors do? I just want to move on with my life and get back to volleyball and friends and middle school.”

“Honey, some things are not so easy to fix. Don’t you think you might be over-reacting a bit? You should feel thankful this is not something deadly like cancer.” My Mom always looks at the bright side of things, puke!

“Thankful!” I shout. “I can’t do ANYTHING I use to. I am losing all my friends and YOU think I should be thank-”

Knock, knock. In walks a man who looks nothing like a doctor. “I am Dr. Pillman. Is everything okay?” My mom and I both look at him with no response.

“Well then, you must be Liz’s mom, Beth, and you must be Liz.”  

Thanks for noticing the obvious Dr. Pillman, who looks nothing like a doctor, more like a surfer.  He has long black hair pulled back into a tight pony tail. Instead of wearing a white doctor coat, he is wearing jeans and a blue polo shirt. Maybe I should be nice to him. He might be able to fix this. I hope, crossing my fingers.

“Hi,” I slightly wave to Dr. Pillman. He turns to my mother and introduces himself, sitting on his round black doctor chair with his clipboard in hand.

Dr. Pillman asks, “How have you been feeling lately Liz?”

I blurt out, almost shouting, “I feel like I am a 12-year-old in a 70-year-old body. I can barely make it up and down the stairs without my legs screaming in pain. My arms and legs burn. All. The. Time. My ribs ache when I sit down. I cannot write for more than a minute without my wrists screaming in pain. I am constantly nauseous. My stomach queasy, especially in the morning. Nothing helps the pain. It is crazy! It hits me so fast. One minute I can feel fine and I think to myself, ‘Maybe this is it. Maybe I will start to feel normal again.’ A couple of hours later it is like someone just flipped a switch. And I go from feeling normal to crashing on the couch. I think that about covers it.” I take a deep breath because all of that came out of my mouth super quick!

“Well Liz, I have looked over your charts and blood tests. I am here today to give you a diagnosis.” Dr. Pillman looks me directly in the eye. I feel my heart beating fast. Whatever it is, just tell me. Fix this.

“Okay,” is the only thing I manage to squeeze out of my mouth.

Dr. Pillman continues, “I believe you have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, CFS for short. We are not sure what causes CFS, but we know it does not damage your body. That is the good news. CFS is characterized by intense fatigue and pain. It can get worse with physical activity or mental concentration.”

“So, that is why I cannot play volleyball anymore and have trouble concentrating in school?” I ask Dr. Pillman.

“Yes, Liz. Currently, there is not a test telling us you have CFS. I was only able to diagnose you because you have been experiencing the symptoms of CFS for more than three months.

My mom interjects, “So, what do we do now? Is there a medication Liz can take to get rid of the symptoms? Is there a cure?”

“I am afraid there is not much we can do. No medication is approved for CFS in children. There is no cure,” answered Dr. Pillman, pushing his glasses up on his nose. “Liz will have to learn how to manage her symptoms by limiting physical activity and taking a lot of breaks. Essentially, she will need to re-learn her ‘new’ self. Most kids grow out of it by the time they are an adult. But it could take years.”

“What!” I abruptly stand up and firmly, slowly demand through my clenched teeth, “No. I need to get back to volleyball. It’s my whole life. You are a doctor. You are MUST fix this!”

“I am sorry Liz, there is nothing we can do.”

I slowly sit back down in my seat, thoughts swirl in my head. Mom and Dr. Pillman continue to talk but all I can do is think back to volleyball. No volleyball? Does this mean every time I feel better and try to be normal, I will feel awful later? How can I be a volleyball player when I cannot even practice. This isn’t fair. He said, “Grow out of it when I’m an adult.” What about my life now? My life is ruined! I feel the tears forming. No. I cannot cry. No.

My thoughts are interrupted by Mom, “Liz honey. Dr. Pillman asked you a question.”

I look up at Dr. Pillman. He repeats, “There is a local support group for children with CFS. Would you like me to give you the information?”

“Whatever,” I snap at Dr. Pillman. He hands me a brochure with kids on the front. Some are in wheelchairs.

Dr. Pillman looks at me and says, “Don’t worry Liz. Once you learn how to manage your symptoms and physical activity, you will crash less often and feel much better. I’ll see you in three months for a check-up.” And then he just walks out the door.

That’s it! I turn around to look at my mom and she’s crying. As I try to hold back the tears, I hug my mom tight and we both cry for what seems like an eternity.

 

* * *

 

The next morning I wake up in utter defeat. Inside I am still Liz, but my body betrayed me. Let me down like a mean, mean joke. “Ha, ha Liz,” my body taunts me, “You thought you were going to be an awesome volleyball player, a normal kid. Not anymore! Normal is something you will never know again.”

Why should I even get out of bed? I can’t do anything. I can’t go to the mall, too much walking. I can’t join my friends at volleyball practice, too much running. I can’t go swimming. I can’t snow ski. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t! “Agggggg!” I scream, slamming my fists into my pillow. “My. Life. Is. Ruined.”

Rage builds up inside me, ready to explode. Scrunching my brow, I look around my bedroom. My heart is beating fast. My hands are clammy. I stare at my wall with the collage of volleyball photos. All I see are memories of what I use to be. A wave of anger takes over. Throwing the comforter off my useless body, I rush over to the photos.  My anger rips off photo after photo. My rage tears them into little pieces. I can barely catch my breath. I scream. I weep. I collapse on the floor.

“Liz! What on earth is going on?” Mom shouts as she opens my bedroom door. “Oh.” I hear her say softly. Without saying another word, Mom lays next to me, holds me tight. We lay there and cry.

In between sobs I plead, “Mom, what am I going to do?”

“We’ll figure it out, honey. We will,” Mom responds tenderly.

#TeachersWrite Experience

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I am loving my experience with #TeachersWrite so far. After my first week, I actually have a piece of writing. Yay! I know if I want to be a better writing teacher, I need to write. The #TeachersWrite blog is just I need for guidance to overcome the fear I’ve always had about writing. If you are interested in checking it out, click here. It links to author Kate Messner and her blog. (By the way, if you have not read THE SEVENTH WISH, by Kate Messner, you must.)

Now, for the brave, getting over the fear, part of this process. My work in progress is below. Feel free to comment and share what works for you, what does not, and any suggestions for improvement.

 

He just does not understand! I do not want a dog, I need a dog. When I am terrified after waking up from a nightmare, a dog will be there to comfort me. When grief takes over my body like a disease, a dog will love me.

“Dad, I will pay the adoption fee, pick up the poop, feed him. I swear I will!”

“Rrr,” Dad grunted, shutting the office door behind him.

Defeat washed over me like a wave. I’m drowning. I slowly trudge up the stairs and plop down on my bed.

“Rrr,” I grunt.

My New Writing Journey

 

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#teacherswrite 2016 Monday June 27th

I am not a writer. I have never been. I try to say things on paper, but when I read it, the message is not there. No formal training on writing, but I am expected to teach my intermediate students the art of writing. This is why I am here. I want to learn. I desire to learn. I am scared. I worry someone will read what I have to say and think, “Who do they think they are?? Really, you are a teacher?” The fear is there like a wall. Do I climb over it? Do I let others see me in my vulnerable state? Or do I just keep doing what I have always done?
One thing I do know, once I became a reader, I was a better, much better, reading teacher. My passion rubbed off in the classroom. I had a book recommendation for every type of student/taste. If only I can accomplish this with writing. If I become a writer, will I be a better, much better, writing teacher? I hope so.

Now…what do I write about???

Benefits of Student Blogging (and things to let go)

As I reflect on my students’ progress in the area of writing, I cannot ignore the positive impact blogging has had with my students. 

  • Motivation: Students write because they have an authentic audience. The Global Read Aloud enabled us to make connections easily with classrooms around the world. Students receive comments from other students. (Which they value way more than teacher comments). We have continued many of these connections throughout the year. Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension has a vast resource on student blogging by Pernille Ripp, founder of the Global Read Aloud.
  • Knowing Your Audience If I had to pick the biggest change in my students’ writing ability, it is writing FOR an audience. When I read my students’ writing, it sounds like they are talking to me, actually having a conversation with me. As a reader, I am genuinely engaged and enjoy the voice that leaps from the paper. Parents have commented on this as well.
  • Practice We all know, readers become better readers by reading and writers become better writers by writing. Students actually enjoy writing for a real audience and tend to write more even on their free time.

Things to Let Go When Blogging with Students

  • Perfection Students will post writing that is not perfect. If you pick apart their writing, they will stop. Allow for mistakes, but teach them how to use spell check and peer edit. Approve posts even when they are not perfect. The struggling writer will actually write way more than you imagined if you live by this! Trust me.
  • Fear If you have thought about starting student blogging, but are afraid, just do it! Kidblog.org is a great classroom blogging site that allows the teacher to filter everything before it is posted, even comments from around the world. It is free and user friendly. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg about the benefits of student blogging. If anything, give it a shot! If you have any other benefits you have noticed in your class on blogging, please share.