Teachers, Invest In Your Own Writer's Notebook For 2020

At the conclusion of each school year, I write, urging teachers to quarantine a little time for writing over the summer holiday period. As we rapidly approach the end of the 2019 school year in Australia, my message remains unerringly simple. 

If you are a teacher who writes, it is easier to present as a writer who teaches. 

     A Writer's Notebook holds the potential to become a valuable teaching resource, as well as a writing tool, if we approach writing, willingly. We must be the risk takers we want our students to become.

To become a teacher who writes requires  commitment and a willingness to quarantine some of your time to engage in writing. We become writers through regular practice. It doesn't happen through hopes and wishes. 

If the decision is to go down  the path of maintaining your own notebook, that notebook will benefit from some early feeding and the summer presents as a potential feast…

Imagine how much credibility you will attract upon entering your classroom early next year, with a notebook containing a range of entries? 

Such a powerful statement is made when a writing program is introduced by a teacher who actually writes. It is a definitive statement as to how much you value the craft of writing.

I remain 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.  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 energy reserves.  A time for relaxation, holidays, family and recreation.
I know many teacher choose to read extensively when on vacation. Free of the pressure of the classroom, it is possible to indulge in more personal reading; becoming reacquainted with favourite authors, or simply reading 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 you will be compiling a sampling of text that assists you to model aspects of writing, to a fresh group of students. 

   Your immediate writing credibility with your new class of curious learners will be greatly enhanced. Hopefully, you will have captured summer memories, made lists, gathered artifacts and ephemera, 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. A tangible statement of intent.

I would urge all teacher-writers 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 remains to turn one’s self into a real life action figure. Teachers work exceedingly hard to get student learners to narrow the gap between intention and action. When it comes to writing, it is important to 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 we want young learners to make a good start to the school year, we must expect the same for ourselves. 

 I’m not suggesting writing 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.

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, or a book. Set aside a little time to dive into some writing. Try to approach writing, in the same manner that many so often approach essential summer reading.  Strengthen your very own reading- writing connection.

     Writing is a solitary task, but it does come with certain intrinsic rewards. To my fellow educators and writers- happy times reading, writing and relaxing.

I conclude 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

Writers make decisions.

Writers are collectors...


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