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Yippee! I found it!

I have had the most fun week. The local college got a grant for a nationally known storyteller to come and teach teachers how to help students (mine are kindergarteners) go from “experience to story to prose.” The title was intriguing enough to make me want to take a week out of my summer to do “school stuff”: Writing as a Second Language. It’s supposed to give teachers strategies to help students use their “first language,” the spoken word, to become more comfortable and creative writers.

As the date approached, I began kicking myself for giving away this last week before our marathon vacation to Mass., Maine, up state New York, North Carolina and Arkansas (!). Just coming up the curve of the drive past day lily covered banks to the site (Museum of Frontier Culture) helped me to leave all my grumpiness back in town.

Writing with my children at school is one of the most pleasurable experiences I have all year. I’m still amazed at how much they can do by the end of the year. I’m starting to trust that I’ll be able to do it again each year, now that it has happened several years in a row—I must have something to do with it. I’ve never felt secure in how I go about teaching it, though.

I came to Kindergarten teaching after 20+ years of Art teaching—ten in elementary (both public school and art center lessons) and following a move, ten hair-raising years in a high school. After I’d proved to myself that I could get over my fear of teenagers and create a curriculum I was proud of, I gave myself the gift of spending each day playing with 5 year olds!

The best thing about young children is their hilarious take on the world around them. I’m laughing all day most of the time. So, one of my heartfelt desires is to help them capture the amazing way they see things in their writing. I just have to do it in a right-brained way. I feel like such an alien in elementary school teacher culture. I’m in a very rural, conservative area in Virginia, and do not share at all the political views of most of my colleagues. They’re all wonderful people, but I’m acutely aware of how different I am—artist, liberal, reader of fanfiction!

Writing as a Second Language. I felt as if I’d gotten a vision of my classroom as a completely different thing. The vision was blurry, but I knew it would come into focus. And it has. It’s the perfect way to teach, not just writing, but children! Our first language is all the non-verbal bits: gesture, sound, attitude. Oral words follow this. You can only write what you would say. This whole approach is to create an environment in which children find, get comfortable with and trust their own stories—by telling them! This comes from hearing stories told (not just read) and having the time and permission to talk at school. What a concept. Most of the time, children are told to “stop talking—we’re working on language.” Hee hee.

I’m seeing the whole structure of our day at school differently, now. Children love to hear about their teacher, especially their mistakes and misadventures. I’ll need to start the day with a story about something in my life, and let that lead into a time where they get to tell their stories. As the year goes on, we can develop those personal stories into written language.

The best part about this is that it will change the experience of Show and Tell. It will become sharing with the class the pictures of their lives that are important to them, not just their newest toy. Instead of bringing in an object, we’ll be sharing the pictures orally through their developing skills with observation through their all their senses. Each day the Special Day Kid can have their turn to tell things using their sense memories. I think this will probably need the spark of a “sense memory” from me just before they go home in the afternoon. There will have to be an instruction card for the parents to engage in noticing sensory memories with their children. But it could be tricky, as some parents will want to direct the whole thing. Hmmm. I’ll have to think of some way to “train” the parents to do what I’m envisioning their role to be. This is going to be interesting.

The exhilaration I’m feeling is amazing. I think I’m finding my own “voice”, now, in my teaching.

happy new year!!!

(Check out all the new year's images at slate.com.)

neighborhood deer

My daughter and I were in the back yard taking pictures (to post at the day on earth journal) and we happened to notice this doe and her baby in the woody area out there. We live in the central downtown area of our small city, but there are about 12 acres of woods in the middle of our block. There is a herd of 7 or 8 deer that regularly come through to graze and rest. This doe stood absolutely still for 5-10 minutes as we took the photos. There was a lovely silence surrounding us as we watched her and the baby. It was a nice way to round out the year.

I'm now an aristocrat!

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Grand Duchess Constance the Formidable of Puddleston St Droop
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

Godricgal posted hers, which just tickled me. I'm really enjoying my new found status in life!
I upgraded to a paid account today and now I have the look of the journal that really makes me happy. Of course, I still need to start writing in it. I'm getting used to the idea.

I have just finished reading Cartographer's Craft by Sam storyteller. It was absolutely wonderful. The plot and characterizations were so amazing. All so beautifully developed and believable. Lots of great detail in the setting that really grounds it in the reality of the wizarding world. The developing of the relationship between Remus and Tonks was so subtle and really emphasized R's whole self: intellectually brilliant, exceptional skills as a wizard, his marauder's ability to devise complex traps for the enemy forces, as well as his tender, vulnerablility in the relationship with Tonks. All in all, incredible writing.
I am now posting my first public entry in this journal. I have enjoyed reading the stories from the writing communities so much but I have never ventured into the fiction realm. I'm not sure I want or need to go in that direction, but we'll see. The best parts so far have been getting to read lots of fun stories and some very nice conversations with new friends. That's been very satisfying.