(As we approach the end of the #SOL17 challenge, I’m feeling reflective about the lessons I've learned from participating. My last two slices of the challenge are reflective ones. I've learned 10 important lessons from this challenge. Today's slice is Lessons 1-5. Tomorrow's slice will be Lessons 6-10.)
Lesson 1: Writing is Exhausting Work
Some mornings I woke up eager to write.
Some mornings felt laborious.
Some days I knew exactly what to say.
Some days it took hours to unscrew the cap of my thinking.
If this challenge were a marathon,
And I was completing the last mile,
I would be limping towards the finish,
Tired and exhausted,
But so satisfied that I ran towards risk and reward.
Lesson 2: Writing Requires Us to Form Habits
My typical #SOL17 routine was this:
I woke, took the children to school, made my coffee.
I sat, in my brown Lay-Z-Boy chair, and faced a blank screen.
Certain mornings, the writing flew out of my fingertips.
Other mornings I lingered.
On these mornings my fingers thumbed through photographs
In search of inspiration.
Occasionally, but not often, I wrote at night,
After my children went to sleep.
But my mind is foggy then and not as sharp as the morning hours.
It is, however, more reflective.
And some of my more personal pieces came out after the sun set and under a blanket of stars.
I formed a writing habit that I want to continue even after this challenge is over.
Lesson 3: When Teachers Write, We Learn Lessons to Carry into our Classrooms
If there were days I felt too tired to write,
There will be days my students feel too tired to write.
If there were days I struggled to draft,
There will be days my students struggle to draft.
If there were days I felt too blind to re-see my writing,
There will be days my students feel equally blinded.
Because I write, I better understand my student writers.
I don’t need a set of prescribed lessons telling me what to teach next.
I just need:
awareness of my own process,
observation of theirs,
thoughtful reflection and analysis,
and the knowledge that comes when I play around in different genres.
These are the important lessons I learn because I’m a writer, too.
Lesson 4: Writing Every Day Makes Writers More Aware of the World
Yesterday, as I walked my beagle Blanche, I observed:
The blossoms emerging from the dogwoods,
The blue jays and robins returning to the trees,
The creek overflowing from the thunderstorm the night before,
The sweet smell you can only sniff in a North Carolina and Virginia springtime,
The crack of a bat from softball practice in the ballpark behind my house.
The sights, sounds, and smells of spring in the South.
And, each sight, sound, and smell I experienced I whispered to myself:
Oh! I could write about that tomorrow!
When we write every day, the things we typically overlook,
Become writing possibilities.
Writing every day makes us more present and more aware of the world around us.
Lesson 5: Writers Need and Yearn for Response and Thrive when They Receive It
Each day, I felt a little nervous when I clicked “Post”
Worried about two things:
My heart raced a little faster,
Because I was excited someone read my writing.
I’ve come to depend on the energy I get from response.
Upset when I only got 1 or 2 responses,
Elated when I got 5 or more.
I didn’t realize how much importance I placed on an audience response,
Until I took this challenge.
Now I know:
This challenge is as much about reading and responding
As it is about writing.
All writers need and yearn for response,
And thrive when they receive it.
(Coming tomorrow: Part 2 of Lessons I've Learned)
About the Author
Brian Kissel is an Associate Professor of education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. His focus is writing instruction. He lives in North Carolina with his wife, Hattie and three kiddos: Charlie, Ben, and Harriet.