Writer's Notebooks And Summer Promises

At the end of each school year, I write, urging teachers to quarantine a little time for writing over the summer vacation period. This year my message remains on song. If you are a teacher who writes, it is easier to present as a writer who teaches. 

In recent weeks I have met numerous teachers who have told me they will be taking up the challenge of keeping their own writer’s notebooks. Well, that notebook will need feeding and the summer presents as a potential feast…

I am aware of the level of exhaustion that exists in schools at year’s end. The need to tie up a multitude of loose ends prior to school closing for the summer holidays is paramount. It’s a race to the finish line. The last week of school seems to take the longest time of all the many school weeks though. School becomes the epicentre of fatigue for both students and staff.

I am also aware that on summer’s horizon teachers will have free time to relax and regenerate their energy reserves.  A time for relaxation, holidays, family and recreation. For those of you who have committed to a new approach to aspects of your teaching next year, may I suggest that the holidays might present a great opportunity to embrace the inner writer and commence your very own writer’s notebook! 

I know many of you read extensively when you are on vacation. Free of the pressure of the classroom, it is possible to indulge in more personal reading; becoming re-acquainted with favourite authors, or to read that book you received as a gift. It is a logical extension to add a little writing to your extra time. If you do this, it will mean that when the new school year begins, you will have compiled a sampling of text assisting you to model aspects of writing, to a fresh group of students. It will afford you immediate writing credibility with your new class of curious learners. Hopefully, you will have captured summer memories, made lists, gathered artifacts, created drawings, gathered photos and the like to assist you to connect more easily to the writing lives of your students. You will be able to say, ‘Like you, I am a writer! Like you I make time for things I consider to be important.’ What a positive start to a new school year.

I urge everyone to make a start over the break. Don’t put it off until the school year begins. That's way too late. At that point you'll probably find yourself overwhelmed by a myriad of demands as well as organizational matters –you get the picture, I’m sure.  

The world is full of people who espouse good intentions. The challenge is to turn one’s self into a real life action figure. We work hard to get our student learners to narrow the gap between intention and action. When it comes to writing, we must begin with ourselves.

Some Things Worth Consideration:
Feelings, dreams, family history, daily activities, ideas, sketches or poetry. Information and insights for yourself or have others share. Record the life of others - holidays, visits to and from families, cultural and special events, holiday observances, New Year, rituals, coming of age, weddings, christenings, school days, leaving school, entering work, going to tertiary education, trips overseas, birthdays, funerals, parties, photographs, clippings, articles, references, certificates, drawings, keep-sakes, ephemera, artefacts and other original material.

 Just as you want your students to make a good start to the school year, you should expect the same for yourself.  I’m not suggesting you to write to a rigid schedule, just quarantine a little time to document some of the rich pickings of your summer life. It will be a great investment in designing curriculum – and it’s painless! 

The more you write, the more you begin to see possibilities. I am not suggesting that you dedicate yourself to just writing about summer exclusively. As always, you are best to focus on matters that are important to you- close to your heart. Choice leads to voice. Maybe your reading might spark your writing. Be open to possibilities.

Off to the beach with a book to read and my writer's notebook at the ready.
If you are reading this while you still have your educators cap on, hopefully, it isn’t pulled down over your eyes and your hands aren’t over your ears.

       This summer, don’t just dive into the surf. Set aside a little time to dive into some writing. Try to approach writing, in the same manner that many so often approach summer reading.  Strengthen your very own reading- writing connection.

       I can’t offer a free set of steak of knives with that, but I know writing comes with certain intrinsic rewards. To my fellow educators and writers- happy times reading, writing and relaxing.

I will end with some great advice from author John Updike.
'You are full of your material—your family, your friends, your region of the country, your generation—when it is fresh and seems urgently worth communicating to readers. No amount of learned skills can substitute for the feeling of having a lot to say, of bringing news. Memories, impressions, and emotions from your first 20 years on earth are most writers’ main material; little that comes after-ward is quite so rich and resonant. By the age of 40, you have probably mined the purest veins of this precious lode; after that, continued creativity is a matter of sifting the leavings.'

My wife Vicki, writing in her writer's notebook in Trani, Italy


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