Blog 9: Earning My Wings…

I wrote Blogs 9 and 10 back in the middle of October; however, I never published these. I hesitated to share them now, yet as I reread them, I realized that they show the journey my creative writing students and I are taking together one baby step at a time. I also highlight my colleagues who have helped me to remember what Clarence, the angel, so aptly reminds George Bailey at the end of one of my favorite Christmas movies, It’s a Wonderful Life. He writes in a copy of Tom Sawyer, “Dear George, remember no man is a failure who has friends. Thanks for the wings, Love Clarence.” So much has changed in my Writing Workshop classes since I wrote these blogs, and it’s due to the support of key people at Udall. I now feel like I have wings! I shall share all that has happened with you, and it begins with blogs 9 and 10, Then, during Christmas week, I will share how far my creative writing students have come in eight short weeks. Merry Christmas!

“Hit’em where they live…”  is an expression my principal uses each time I discuss my creative writing class with him.  He is constantly urging me to use my passion for writing, and the available technology, to ignite a level of passion within my students.  Although I realize he means well, if only it were that easy and that simple.  Unbeknownst to him, the daily problem I continue to face is that my passion is writing, but for the vast majority of my students, they do not feel nor will they entertain the possibility of exploring this realm of possibility.  They still refuse to meet me halfway and alter their fixed mindsets! Additionally, I am shocked to discover that technology doesn’t wow them either–but I’ll go into that a little later.

I know you must be sick of hearing me vent, but I kid you not (no pun intended; ah, alright, maybe) that each day I must work to win my creative writing students over. It continues to be my daily nemesis.   As I have lamented in the past, I long for this to be the class to which my students joyfully flock. In reality, they continue to linger outside my room until the bell corrals them and forces them inside like a sharp whip.   Their dislike for this class is palpable.

Each day, I continue to watch students slump into their seats with frowns upon their faces. I hoped this feeling would fade, but it’s obvious that this class is still a daily reminder that they are not where they want to be, and they are forced, against their wills, to do what they do not want to do.

It reminds me of a line from a science fiction short story by Ray Bradbury, called “The Veldt.” The narrator comments,”Children are like carpets; they need to be stepped on every once in a while.” I know this is true, for I have spent the better part of my life forcing teenagers to follow my directives or else. I’d ignore their grimaces and protestations knowing that ultimately I would provide them with what they needed even if it fell far short of what they wanted at the time.   I constantly remind myself that this class is experiencing growing pains, but somehow, when it comes to this class, it feels counter intuitive.  Each day I feel more and more like a failure. It’s not a fun position to be in– for them or for me!  I equate it to force feeding a mule where I am constantly kicked in the butt and the heavy hay bucket lands on my head.

And,  I must admit that I feel sorry for these kids;  I literally feel their pain.   Like them, I feel stuck and helpless as to how to motivate them.  And like them, this class most assuredly ranks up there as one I would strive to miss every chance I could–if I wasn’t the teacher.  LOL!  As a result, I’ve noticed that many students come in late or leave school during our elective period together.  They are savvy enough to realize this class is inconsequential to their overall grades as there aren’t any, and if they do miss what we do that day, so what! The class was intentionally designed this way to allow students to experiment and not be restrained by the fear of a poor grade.  For now, it’s just seems to be another reason the class just isn’t relevant to their lives. Ugh!

I try so hard not to take their dislike personally, but I am the face of the class and the one making them do what they ultimately do not want to do.  It’s hard to hit students where they live when they come to class with body armor.

I continue to envision this elective feeding my soul.  Instead, my soul is withering away, consumed by an invisible pathogen called reticence, and it’s ravaging the entire creative population.   If I could unzip my body and fly away, I would–and I am sure this is the only time my students would eagerly follow my lead and join me.

Not yet ready to wave the white flag and surrender, I have come to realize it takes a village to save me and my students from drowning in despair, and it’s got a great big rainbow above it!  So, like Noah, I recognize that while I am building this ship as I am simultaneously trying to keep it afloat,  I couldn’t be doing it with out the aid of so many of my colleagues at Udall Road Middle School.   When my motor conks out, they continually appear as the oars that allow me to find dry land and survive another day.

Hence, I am bolstered and inspired by two great women at Udall; first, my colleague, Kimberly Crouch, who I highlighted in my last blog and who is my work-wife!  She continuously creates the most fascinating products for the E.L.A. classroom, and I encourage you to click on her name, which will bring you to her store.  And to our library media specialist, Anne Bean, who also serves as a continuous lifesaver as she pulls me up to and through twenty-first century technology.  I am grateful for the constant collaboration of these amazing educators…Come back on Tuesday and find out why/how! 

Author: Jayne Magdalen Traver

I have been writing all my life in one form or another. I have been an English teacher for the past 22 years, and writing, whether it be teaching literary analysis, argumentation or creative elements, has always been a main focus in my classroom. I have come to realize that teaching literature and writing have prepared me to write my own novel, but like most endeavors, it's been easier said than done. Here, in this blog space, I hope to gain insight into my own strengths and weaknesses in writing to finally become the writer I am destined to be.

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