I started off the month of March with such vigor and excitement to try the SOL challenge. I was even more shocked when I found myself thinking about it day in and day out. And then life happened. Like a sledgehammer the fates slammed down a multitude of obstacles for me to juggle and persevere through. Unfortunately, I struggled with and made the difficult decision to focus my attention to the more pressing issues and forego the Slice of Life Challenge.
But I never stopped thinking about it. As I was overcome with guilt and a rush of emotions at the close of the calendar month I decided to pause and remind myself of why this became such a motivator in the first place. I wanted to put myself in the shoes of the students and really walk the walk of all that I preached to them and the staff in my district. I wanted to live a writers life on a daily basis to understand some of the struggles and successes that come with the job.
Before this I wrote in a journal, but that was for my personal initiatives and was very sporadic. This challenge was different because I wanted to be aware of the process and commit to the act of writing it in a new way, and it was for all these reasons that I was feeling like a failure.
But what I’ve come to realize is that even through not doing the challenge I learned A LOT. For the first time I can truly feel what some of my students may be feeling when they truly want to write a great piece and they just can’t-whether it be writer’s block or the block from outside forces that they may not want to share with me but nonetheless are requiring more of their energy and mind then they can humanly give to my assignment right now. I now have a deeper appreciation for having too many responsibilities to juggle and that even if you LOVE writing, you may just not be able to make it your top priority. So how as a teacher can I take this new understanding and still assist my students in reaching success?
Well, one lucky truth for the life of a student is that the time for writing is carved out of their school day for them. So finding the time is a little bit less of the issue. However, having time and being able to maintain focus on your ideas are two different things. This made me think back to an article or blog (I don’t remember now) that I read which said to have a Think Tank table or area in your classroom. I thought it was an interesting idea at the time but didn’t necessarily know if I felt it was necessary. However, now I could make a connection and a strong argument for why every room should have one. If a student is having a day where they are battling outside thoughts and emotions they may go to the Think Tank table and fiddle with some objects (marbles, stress balls, figurines, etc) or listen to some music. This may allow them to unwind, fidget out some of their stress and it could actually spark a writing idea.
Most importantly I realized that a part of developing a writer’s life requires compassion. Not everyday is easily a writing day. Some days may be a get lost in your thoughts and work through them in your own way. Because the reality is, I think if a teacher were to show that understanding and give that leeway, in the long run, the students would be more productive, more motivated, and more attuned to the writing process.