Reflections from the Pause Button

I should write something.

That thought has passed through my head multiple times over the past few *ahem* months since my last update.  I’ve tried a few times.  I came close to a complete post once, but nothing ever came to fruition.  And yet, I still keep getting new followers and new comments on old posts, constant reminders that my blog isn’t dead yet, and I really should do something to make sure it stays that way.  So here I am.

While I haven’t been writing about it, my career has been on my mind a lot lately.  Gwen is over three months old.  If I’d had a job this year, I’d be done with maternity leave by now.  I’d be back in the classroom instead of home with her, watching her grow and change with each new day.  I’m so glad I have this time with her.

And, if I’m honest, I’m glad I’ve had this time, period.  I think back to my mental state this time last year.  I was feeling the culmination of six years of sacrifice, heartache, and uncertainty – and I was a mess.  I kept that mess pretty well hidden most of the time.  I projected the happy, confident teacher persona that carried me so well through so many other jobs and schools.  I clung to the “just keep moving forward” focus that had been my defense mechanism for so many years.

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I type when I can’t focus.

I’ve been a bit overwhelmed lately. It’s that frustrating phase when work and grading piles up while my life hops on a roller coaster. Students turned in research papers last Thursday. Please don’t ask how many I’ve reviewed yet. The answer is not enough. I need to tackle them soon, though, because I’ll receive another wave of assignments this Thursday, and we’re also trying to finish up Hamlet.

That’s enough to swamp any English teacher, but compounding everything is the fact that my own future is still up in the air. Decisions will be made soon. They haven’t been made yet, and until they are, I’m living in a constant state of distraction. I don’t know yet if I have my job next year. My students know that much already, so I can safely say that on the internet without discussing the details. I doubt they know how hard it is for me to stand up in front of them every day not knowing if I’ll be able to stay. I doubt they know how hard I’ve tried to keep myself from becoming attached to them, and how miserably I’ve failed at that. I doubt they see the number of times I swallow back my emotions while I teach.

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My Blog isn’t My Mark

The signs may not be obvious, but they’re there for the keen observer.  I haven’t written a book review since April.  I’ve been much less consistent at replying to comments.  My posts have dropped from twice a week to once a week, and this one is late.  The previous two posts were both responses to the Weekly Writing Challenge instead of the brainchild of my own ideas… and this one is, too.  Sort of.  I’ll explain what I mean in a bit.

Foto einer Glühbirne (an),

Waiting for the light bulb (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All these signs point to one fact.  I’ve lost my blogging drive.  I still enjoy the act of writing.  I’m still floored by the numbers of followers I have – even after sifting through the spam followers that worked their way into the mix.  I still feel like I have something to give to the world.  However, I’m realizing that blogging was my place-holder for my real mission, and right now, the place-holder is starting to feel a bit flimsy.

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If All the World’s a Stage, Who’s My Audience?

I’ve been blogging for over a year, but I’m still not used to this concept that my writing has an audience.  What’s even more weird is that I can’t really pinpoint my audience.  When I write a post, who am I writing to?

Sometimes I’m writing directly to teens.  I know I have a lot of teenage followers and readers.  Some of them are my most prolific “likers” and “commenters.”  They take my words and participate with them, just like my students would in a classroom.  I love this interaction.  I thrive on it, just like I thrive on the give-and-take of real life teaching.  Teenagers are at the heart of my professional passion, why I consider my career so much more than just a way to make money.  In teenagers, I have an opportunity to make a difference, and that drives me more than anything else.  So I write to the teens.  I believe in them and their potential, intelligence, and strength.  I know some will ignore my words, but some will read them, appreciate them, and maybe even learn something from them.  I love that.

Keep reading to find out more!

Writing From My Past

Sometimes I wonder if the amount I write about my own adolescence is weird for a normal adult.  I’ve been out of high school for 10 years now.  I have a wonderful marriage, a strong career, and a life that I’m proud of.  Shouldn’t I be able to leave my teen years behind me?

But then, there’s that career.  That career puts me in the path of adolescents on a daily basis (when I’m employed, anyway).  That career prompted me to start a blog whose readership consists significantly of teens.  That career drives my sense of purpose, my mission, and my passion.  In order to be good at what I do, I need to understand teenagers.  My point of reference for that is my own adolescent years, so I keep going back to them, keep trying to understand the cause-and-effect of what brought me to where I am, keep trying to remember not just what happened, but how those years felt, and keep trying to hold on to what it was like to process the world with a teenage mind.

Because the fact of the matter is that teen brains are developmentally different from adult brains.  This isn’t a bad thing.  In fact, in some ways it’s a very good thing.  I spoke some about this on my post “They Grow Up So Fast!… or do they?“, so I don’t really want to go into the details now.  My point here is that those differences exist, and if I, as an educator, forget that or start to see those differences in a negative light, I will lose my relevance to my teen students.   Continue reading

On Swimming Pools, the Duck-Billed Platypus, and Writing

I write to process the world around me.  I don’t write to be read by others.  Not really.  It’s kind of weird to me that I have an audience now.  As a teen I would have been horrified to find out people were reading the angsty things I wrote.  In college and my early twenties, I wrote to try to make sense of my feelings and decisions as the world changed rapidly around me, and I changed with it.  Even when I started this blog, my real motivation was to give voice to an idea and see where it would go.  Yes, part of me wanted to test the waters and see if people would read what I had to say, but I was also still figuring out what I had to say.

I took a class in college called “Advanced Writing”.  It was a required course for English majors and the pre-seminary guys (apparently they needed to learn how to write sermons).  I remember certain aspects of that course very clearly, not because of what it taught me about writing, but what it taught me about myself.  I’d always considered myself a good writer.  I took high school level writing classes in middle school and always impressed my teachers with my papers.  That was mostly academic writing, though.  Research papers and book reports, that kind of thing.  In Advanced Writing, we learned to write the “nonfiction essay.”   Continue reading

The Traditional “I’ve Just Been Freshly Pressed!” Post

This couldn’t have come on a crazier weekend.  When I received the initial e-mail and the comments began pouring in, I was away from home, focused on being there for someone who needed me.  Had I been home, being Freshly Pressed would have been the highlight of my weekend.  Had I been home, I could have devoted hours to WordPress and replied to all the comments, joined more discussions, and visited more blogs from my readers.  As it was, my attention was diverted elsewhere most of the time, and I could only occasionally check on my new-found “Freshly Pressed” status.  At first I tried to reply to everyone, but as the comments kept piling up, I caved and simply hit “Approve” whenever I found a spare moment.

I did read every comment, though.  I appreciate every one.  If you are a reader who didn’t receive a personal response to your comment, thank you for your interest in my words.  Thank you for taking the time to join the discussion.  I’m so thankful for all the kind comments, compliments, and opinions.  I’m so thankful to be taken seriously and to have others listen to what I have to say.   Continue reading

The Introduction to an Unwritten Book

Explanation:  I can still see the old classroom with uneven hardwood floors, creaky tables, and ancient green chalkboards.  A group of seven young women sat facing me, scribbling away on mock SAT exams while I kept time and fended off boredom.  As I often do, I picked up my notebook and started to write.

For some reason, I began to write the introduction to a book.  I didn’t know what the book would be about; I just started writing.  By the time I finished, I knew.  When I went home, I began to draft cover images, chapter outlines, and title ideas (Avoiding Neverland was one of them).  The more I planned, the more I realized I didn’t know enough.  So I read the research of those who agreed and those who disagreed with my premise.  I needed a place to process my thoughts and ideas.  I wanted to test the waters to see if I had an audience, so the idea of the blog was born.  I knew I had a year of travelling ahead of me, which made it a good time for that step.   Continue reading

My Dream Class

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey queue, ...

While we’re dreaming, let’s have class here. (Wizarding World of Harry Potter classroom. Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe it’s because I’m currently spending my weekdays with 3rd graders, but I’ve decided that I want to form a class out of my teen bloggers and spend every day teaching them.

Wow.  I just said “my” like I had something to do with their work, which I definitely don’t.  Sorry, teens.

Actually, almost all teachers tend to develop that habit.  Maybe you’ve noticed it in my blog already.  “My students”, “my teens”, “my kids”.  But when we teachers say “my,” we aren’t trying to take credit that isn’t ours.  Rather, we’re expressing a dedication to our students that’s sometimes hard to explain.  They aren’t just the students that I happen to teach.  They’re my investment, my life’s work in human form.  I belong to them even more than they belong to me.   Continue reading

On Awards and Stuff Like That

As I began my blogging journey and browsed other people’s blogs, I noticed some pages proudly displaying awards.  I was initially intrigued.  Where did these awards come from?  Who bestowed them, and what for?  How could I “win” one?  I was still in my initial exploration of WordPress phase, so I read up on them.  I learned that these blog awards are informal, passed freely among the bloggers in a manner similar to chain letters or pyramid schemes.  Some people called them just another method for generating link-backs and clicks.  Others acknowledged that these awards did provide a form of positive feedback and formed a bond between individual bloggers.


My first blog award

For my non-blogging readers, here’s how the award system works:

1.  A fellow blogger nominates you, and sends you a message letting you know.

2.  If you want to accept the award and post that visual trophy on your blog, you must follow a set of rules first.  These rules are remarkably reminiscent of the chain letters and survey e-mails of my teen years, but with a little recognition for a job-well-done tied up in the mix.  Usually, they go something like this:  Continue reading