I don’t always think about single words as I look back on my day, but I couldn’t help but focus in on the word PROCESS.
For one thing, it’s Election Day so I got to go be part of the electoral process. I am continually amazed at how many well-educated adults I know who do not go vote so I do my part to encourage those around me to go vote – including seniors who are now old enough to go cast their own ballots. I can’t – and won’t – tell students who I intend to vote for. I just make sure that they know that they now have reached an age where they need to take this part of their citizenship seriously. There’s too much at stake to not take part and use your vote.
So while I worked through the day with the thoughts of needing to vote this evening, I had the opportunity to talk to some students who were struggling with their latest papers. Many of them have struggled to find good sources or enough information to fill 8-10 pages — or with how to use examples or write introductions or conclusions. As with all writing, it’s part of the process to meet these obstacles and find a way to get around, over, or under them. It is often frustrating and often infuriating because there is no manual to tell you how to fix that with your paper or your topic. But it’s also the best part of the process – because it is what allows you to make your writing yours. I know my students are learning as we talk about these obstacles and brainstorm solutions together. “Think about how you could use your examples or maybe organize this in a different way.” “This might be one way to do it, but this might also work.” “What do you think?”
As I met with my ninth graders one-on-one over the past couple of days for my first formal reading conferences (though we have had tons of informal ones at my bookshelves and in the hallways and before class), I kept thinking about the process of becoming a reader. Part of it is habit, part of it is falling in love with words and story all over again, and part of it is the social aspect of being able to share that love with others. So I have talked with them about their habits and given some of them time-keeping assignments and others directives to get their library cards and pins so I can get them set up to borrow ebooks. Others I have challenged to read just five minutes a night to get started on a habit…with the very real expectation that they’ll eventually be reading after the timer goes off. I think students are surprised at this investment I’m making – to talk to them one-on-one and to give them book recommendations just for them. I look forward to watching them continue to grow as readers. It’s one of my favorite parts of this teacher gig I’ve got.
I met with my creative writers this afternoon. I had five students – all of whom are doing NaNoWriMo. True to form, they are all over the place. They all brought frustrations to share — and it’s only Day 4! We had to talk about them being too hard on their first draft writing (“All first drafts are going to be…messy.”) and getting stuck. They were freaked out by how much one had written and how little another one had. Two of us have started over completely once already. (I’m guilty. But my 200-ish words from Saturday night that had no direction or real interest for me were no great loss when I started fresh on Sunday morning.) There was more doodling on my board as they vented and helped each other try to solve the problems they have already found themselves up against. This is all part of the process. Writing is messy. And we all can benefit from having some support as we struggle through this new territory for us all. (Not one of us has managed to win at NaNoWriMo yet…) I expect that next time there will be more conversation, more doodling – and possibly more sharing of what they have written.
Tonight Piper went to the vet to get her post-spaying stitches out – one of the steps of her healing process. I was at my own appointment so I missed the Big Event – not the removal of the stitches, but the removal of the Cone of Shame. She was so excited to see me when I got home that I nearly got knocked over from her puppyish enthusiasm. I’m thrilled to see her not running into things anymore or just looking so strange with that large plastic collar around her neck and head.
I now need to head off to get started on the put-the-kid-to-bed process, but I’ll be doing it while thinking about this: every piece of my day has been part of a bigger story and is just part of the bigger process. Tomorrow will bring more parts of the process to build on and guide others through. This is how our stories intersect. This is how we connect with one another. This how we work together.