Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sometimes It Gets Ugly


I'm starting a personal narrative unit with my freshmen, so in looking for mentor texts, I decided to share a couple of blogs posts with them. I wanted them to see how to take a small, everyday moment and explode it into a piece of writing.

I've discovered that since sharing with all of you on this blog, I don't mind sharing my writing with my students. It gives me another audience and it lets them see that when I talk about writing, I know a little something.

As I was reading, I discovered something...

I write a lot about the successes in my classroom. It sounds like a magical place to be.

But

It's not.

Sometimes,

it's just plain ugly.

For every boy who comes in, excited about his poetry, there's five more who would rather do homework for other classes, check out Craig's list, and watch videos on YouTube.  By the way, the tech guy in our district called me one day when a boy was on Craig's List, that's how I know it happens.  The truth is, in teaching an elective class on writing, you get kids in your class who DON'T LIKE TO WRITE!

I know. Hard to believe.

For every student who writes a wonderful, intense memoir in verse, there's the others who if feels like I have to drag words out of their mouths with my hands.

I might convince a student to come to school every day for a week....
But then she misses two days the next week.

Here's the truth. My teaching is sometimes just down right ugly. Ugly days I'd just as soon forget. Ugly days I'd like to take back and start over.

There are days I am behind my desk just way to much.
Days I spend Creative Writing time grading papers or planning for the afternoon classes instead of talking with my writers.

I'm STILL working with 9th graders to make them thinkers and learners instead of receptacles. Many days, I feel like I'm trying to herd cats. Reading and writing workshop--forget it.

Ugly days.

But

Sometimes, those ugly days end with an email from a student:

"Sooo I really miss creative writing and being able to write everything that was on my mind down and have someone read it and comment and feel everything I'm feeling.  Are there any writing competitions or anything I can do stuff for?  I really miss just showing the emotions I normally hide..."

And then, I put the ugly days back in the closet and celebrate small successes....


20 comments:

  1. And you should, celebrate the successes, & keep on keeping on with the herding cats. I always thought that my words were gluing into their brains somewhere, & when the right time came, the words would help. I know you'll never stop trying, Deb, even on the ugly days! And, I love hearing it all, BTW, but especially the successes. Thanks for this honesty. (FYI-I just shared your post with my teachers on my newsletter I do for them about 'why do you come to school?')

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    1. I'm glad you shared Why I Come to Work post--I find myself reminding myself with it periodically. I think it's an affirmation for me.

      I don't stop trying, Linda...but I think I need to reflect a bit more on the ugly days and see if I can learn from them....

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  2. I like the structure, the color and the honesty of your writing. Sometimes the ugly days scream louder than the small successes, so the only way to cope with the ugly days (I like the term) is to stuff them in the closet. You can write the "small successes" in your last sentence in bold. Thank you for this slice.

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    1. Thanks, Terje. I can't let those ugly days out of the closet very often or I think I would wallow in them way too much. They do make the good ones even sweeter though...

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  3. I'm glad you write about the gorgeous moments rather than the ugly days. The successes and triumphs are what move us to keep trying. (Plus, I've never been a fan of the people who always go on and on about how horrible everything is.)

    We all have ugly days in whatever job we do, be it a desk job, a teacher, or a parent.

    I'm glad you take the time to celebrate the small successes!

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    1. Thank you, Stacey. I love celebrating the good things in my classroom rather than the ugly days. Maybe that's why I write about them more. Plus, when I have an ugly day, I can go back and read about the good ones!

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  4. Oh, yes, we all have those "ugly days" and I'm sure working with teenagers can be difficult. But, as with everything, if you accentuate the positive, the negative (or ugly) can be put aside and you can move on. There are always times when we need to share those ugly days, just so we can move on and focus on the good. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. You're right, Judy. It's easier to move on once I look at them and compare them to the good ones.

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  5. Ugly days are always louder than the good ones...just like kids! It's a breath of fresh air to have a good happen in the middle of ugly, so you can refocus!

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    1. Also, in looking at the ugly ones, that email just sang out!

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  6. This is the pure joy of knowing you-- you have a way of embracing even the ugly. You don't mask it. You get real with it. I love that.

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    1. Ugly days are a part of teaching. I think I have to embrace them or I would go crazy. And, after looking at the ugly ones this morning, I had a great day.

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  7. I love this post--admitting to ourselves that sometimes, it does get ugly...and yet, we keep going anyway, and learn to focus more on the days that work instead of wallowing in the ones that don't. Or, at the very least, we keep showing up despite the ugly. There's a lot of hope in that.

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  8. I love this post--admitting to ourselves that sometimes, it does get ugly...and yet, we keep going anyway, and learn to focus more on the days that work instead of wallowing in the ones that don't. Or, at the very least, we keep showing up despite the ugly. There's a lot of hope in that.

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  9. Thanks Ruth. It's hard to admit that we aren't perfect. That sometimes we just aren't that great some days...

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  10. I love your honesty and self reflection in this piece. It is true that most of us talk little about the lessons that flopped and the kids we don't reach that day. Reflecting on the challenges and the tough lessons makes us stronger and better teachers in the end. None of us are perfect!

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  11. And the beautiful reality is that you are not alone! I have those days and we try to forget them (and not write about them either!). I love your honesty and that through your powerful planning, you stumbled upon this realization. Yes, we have ugly days, but your reflections provide more meaning to you and your students. Still a win-win!

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  12. I love this line: Many days, I feel like I'm trying to herd cats. Yep, that was what a few of them felt like for me this week. The honest voice that you used in this piece was heartwarming.

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  13. I think, overall, even with the ugly days, real is better than magical... after all, magic is a lot of illusion...

    Thanks for reminding us to be honest about our ugly days, but not to dwell on them... and to savor the wonderful moments.

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  14. Thanks for showing us the balance - the good and the bad... and ending with the good :)

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