Thoughts on the NWP

This is a little late, but here goes anyway.

I always wanted to be a writer.  For years, I scribbled my heart and soul in notebooks, composed tons of story starts and a few finished pieces, even a couple of shaky but fun-to-write poems.  And yet, with twenty years of sustained writing and whole boxes of old journals and notebooks, I refused to call myself a writer.  “Real” writers were published.  I was half-embarrassed to admit to my amateurish efforts, and I rarely showed my writing to anyone.  I hid my notebook and my passion.  Few people knew just how much I loved writing–even my students, the very people I tried every day to inspire with a love for writing and books.

All that changed the summer I participated in the National Writing Project.  It was an exhilarating surprise to be expected to read and write and share it all with other teachers.  The group bubbled over with ideas and creativity and energy.  Every day, we wrote and read and laughed and cried together.  We participated in literature circles and writing groups; we shared demonstrations of best practice classroom strategies; we listened to wonderful speakers who introduced us to blogs and social networking ideas; we exchanged strategies for test preparation; and above all, we wrote.  Through writing, we learned to share our ideas, and we learned to share our souls.

The Writing Project changed my teaching and my life.  The NWP’s strength lies in its empowering of teachers, who carry that sense of power back to their students.  I came to the classroom with a perfectly adequate preparation to teach, but the NWP reignited my passion and reminded me of why I wanted to teach in the first place.  During that summer, I finally recognized myself as a writer, and that made a phenomenal difference in my classroom.

The NWP is not just a summer program.  It is a philosophy of education that truly puts students’ literacy needs first.  The NWP taught us strategies for modeling, discussing, and practicing the writing process with our students; it gave us ideas for ways to share amazing literature; it gave us the Writer’s Notebook where students can play in all genres of writing; and it helped us learn to collaborate to create even greater work.  Through WP workshops, retreats, and institutes, I continue to stay on top of the best ideas in education, and I am able to bring the best resources into my classroom.

The WP emphasizes that words may be the most important tools we have.  I want my students to always read deeply from the words of others, and never be afraid to share their own words with the world.  The WP gave me the excitement and energy to to bring that desire to my students.  I will never be able to say thank you enough.

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More Positivity: More Snow

We went out to dinner on Friday night, when the snow had just started.  We ate and watched it from inside the noisy restaurant, warm and filled with laughter, with our precious girl sitting beside us in her high chair.  I loved the picture it all made, especially my daughter’s reaction as we headed for the car when we were finished.  She rode high near my husband’s shoulder, her little smiling face upturned to the snow, her hood falling back as she called, again and again, “Rain!”

I’m so grateful to get to see snow through her eyes, to be a part of her excitement as she discovers the world.

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New Year’s Eve!

Positivity posts are a little slow for me lately.  It’s not that I’m not positive–actually, the opposite is true.  I’m off work, spending time with my family, and my masters work is finished.  I’m happy about everything right now.  I want to write positivity posts about every single thing I see, from the Christmas tree to the carpet.

But to avoid nauseating myself, I will pause on the posting for a day or two, and catch up in the new year.  Happy 2011!!

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Positivity Day 6: Gilmore Girls

I don’t really like television.  I pretty much never watch it, unless it’s Good Morning America or random shows on the Food Network, and I generally just leave both of those on for background noise.  I don’t have time anymore to plan my life around when something’s going to be on TV, and I don’t have DVR, so I never pay attention to any of it.

But I really love TV shows.  They’re fun and funny, and if you have them on DVD, you can watch an episode in the time that it takes to eat lunch, or walk on the treadmill (haha–like I do that).  So I’ve started collecting seasons of television shows that are good enough that even I have heard of them.  I got a season of Friends for Christmas several years ago, when we lived in Louisville.  I still remember lying on my old couch in the sunny living room a couple of days after Christmas and pressing play on the first disc.  Before the end of the episode, I was hooked.  It began an obsession which spread to my sisters and led us to fanatically collecting all the seasons, playing trivia games, and texting quotes to each other.  The show hadn’t even ended then, but I didn’t watch while it was on TV.  I waited until the tenth season came out on DVD and caught myself up, and then watched all the episodes in order, from the first season to the last.

I’ve done this with other shows too (The Office, Seinfeld, King of the Hill) but none have inspired a Friends-level obsession like Gilmore Girls. I love, love, love the Gilmore Girls. My sister used to watch seasons of it in Asia and insisted I’d love the wordplay of the show.  So last year for Christmas, I got a season and again, was immediately hooked.  The episodes are longer, but when I was up in the night rocking a baby to sleep, that didn’t seem so important.  My daughter and I went through all the seasons in no time, and to this day, she loves the theme song.  No other show relaxes her and helps her drift off to sleep with quite the same level of effectiveness.

Even though Lorelai acts way too much like the daughter for pretty much the duration of the show, I love the mother/daughter relationship, the coffee consumption, the French fry habit, and  yes, the dialogue is absolutely fantastic.  And the love stories make me happy too, especially since I can switch discs to skip over the sad stuff and just get the good parts.  All of which adds up to a supremely satisfying show.  I just wish there were more seasons!

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Positivity Day 5: My daughter

Today is a snow day, which means that my daughter and I get to spend the entire day all snuggled up together in the house, watching Elmo and  reading books and playing.  Nothing sounds better to me.  My daughter is one of the most fun people in the entire world.  I love listening to her tiny sweet voice trying out new words, and watching her chubby little face as she stands in the middle of the room, uncertain whether she is going to actually move her feet and walk, or just drop to her knees and resort to her time-honored speedy crawl.  I love the way she cuddles close as we read, her small dimpled hand reaching out to turn the page, and her high-pitched “Again!” when the book is finished.  I never get tired of just looking at her, and I am always amazed that here is this whole little person, whom God entrusted to me.  Everything about her is wonderful, and I can never thank God enough for putting her into our lives.

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Positivity Post 4: Snow

As I write this, I am lying on my couch, watching the snow fall.  It drifts to the ground in tiny flakes, or whooshes by in huge bursts of wind.  It frames my pretty Christmas tree standing in front of the window, and there aren’t enough happy words in the whole English language to describe just how much I love it.

I know, I know–it’s wet and messy; it makes roads treacherous; it causes runs on milk and bread; it traps people in their houses; it basically causes problems galore.  I had to leave Louisville last night at 8:30, instead of on Sunday morning, and bring a busload of kids back home so we could beat the storm.  Believe me, I know snow is trouble.  But none of that matters on a cozy Sunday afternoon, my sweet husband and daughter snug with me in our own little house, watching the world outside transform itself into a Christmas card.  Our very own winter wonderland.

This is the kind of day I’ve waited for during the past long, difficult semester.  I could not be more content than I am right now.  Let it snow.

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Positivity Day 3: Faith

I’ve been having a hard time figuring out how to approach this post.  My faith in Christ is definitely the most important thing in my life, but when you’re writing about something so big, how do you know where to start?

I’ve been a Christian for almost my entire life.  I was raised in church and Sunday school, and when I was eight years old, I made the decision for myself that I believed in Jesus and wanted to be like Him and to follow Him forever.  I talked to my parents for several weeks before walking down the aisle at our church and kneeling to pray.  I will always remember that as soon as my knees touched the floor, I heard a wild thumping and shuffling as my parents set my youngest sisters down in the pew beside Kristi and headed down the aisle after me.  They prayed on either side of me, and when I finished praying and stood, it seemed that half the church had joined them, many with tears streaming down their faces, praising God for the decision that I had made.  A life of faith is also a life in church community, and because people are imperfect, churches are also imperfect.  But I never had any doubt that those people loved me and prayed for me.  They were my second family.

Faith is such a touchy subject today.  The second you begin to talk about it, some people will begin to tune you out.  But when faith is central to who you are–faith, in fact, is your main identity and source of joy–how can you not talk about it?

I claim faith as my main identity and joy, but the truth is that I don’t always live that, which is probably why so many people are bothered when Christians begin to talk about faith, and why they think we are hypocrites.  I believe what the Bible says, that all people are sinners, that sin separates us from God, who is perfect, and that Jesus, His Son, came to earth in human form and allowed himself to take on our sins through His death on the cross, allowing all people forever to be saved and reconnect to God through belief in Him.  Jesus is the only way to God, the only way to salvation, the only way to heaven.  He is also the only way to true peace and contentedness and love, and He desires that His followers share His love with others.  I believe every bit of this–and yet most of the time I fail at sharing that love with others.

It’s often awkward to try to figure out how to bring up faith, when Jesus often isn’t a subject in everyday conversation with strangers, except as the object of profanity.  I try to love people; I pray for them; I try to help when I can.  But I want people to know that I do it because of Jesus, and too often that part of the message just sticks in my throat.  And I’m so ashamed of that.

I have gotten a little off topic here in this positivity post.  What I really want to share is that Jesus means more to me than anything.  God is so much bigger than my worries and frustrations and joys, and He can handle anything.  As the children’s song says, “God can do anything but fail.”  When I have hard days, I pray.  When I found out I was pregnant, I prayed.  When I lost my sister, I prayed a LOT.  I pray when I’m happy, sad, excited, or just need someone to talk to.  Jesus is a true friend.  He lightens loads, brings peace, guides me through life.  Every good thing in my life is from Him, and He has helped me through all the bad ones.  I wish I was better at sharing His good news with others.  But I have faith He will help me with that as well.

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