It's the National Day on Writing, so my students and I are interrupting our regularly scheduled units to celebrate the writing nerd holiday! We started by brainstorming all of the communities, large and small, that we consider ourselves to be a part of, then did a Warrior II pose exercise that our school counselor told me about from a Yoga Calm class she took. Basically, as you stand in Warrior II pose, your back hand represents the negative and your front arm represents the positive. Bring the back to the front, creating a physical representation of turning the negative energy into something positive. I asked students today to do this, to think about both positive and negative aspects of their chosen communities, and how they belong as a part of the balance between both.
I belong to a community of runners. While I run my miles day in and out by myself, I know there are many out there like me and I take comfort in that. Some of us are slower than others, but we share the same passion. I see my community on race days, sometimes 10,000 of us, sometimes 75, pacing and bouncing and stretching during the "Star-Spangled Banner" as we wait for the start. Sometimes I let myself down, by taking this community for granted. I am motivated by selfish desires and forget to enjoy the support and love that comes from being a part of something that is better than just me.
Link to Period 2 student writings
Readers are a passionate community. We all take different paths to find this love: maybe it came from our parents, teachers, or maybe it's something we stumbled across on our own. Whatever originally drew us to reading, it's something that will never leave. I have joined and left many communities in my lifetime, but I have never stopped being a reader. I can't even imagine it. Honestly, one of the biggest slaps in my face as an adult was when I realized that many people actively choose to not read. I've heard it a million times at Parent/Teacher Conferences: "We don't read, so we don't like to force him to," when discussing a student's habits. How can people not like to read? How could you not want to live other lives and daydream and escape whenever you pick up a new book?
Link to Period 3 student writings
My teaching community can either be the most frustrating or energizing part of my career. I want to scream when a teacher meeting devolves into an opportunity to complain about "kids today" or attitudes and behaviors that are insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But when I'm with other teachers who share similar passions or feelings that I have, I am renewed and fall in love with my content and the people who teach it. In any community, the impact of the energy we bring to the group is felt by everyone. I strive to be more positive (and frequently fail) because there is too much negativity surrounding our schools and teachers already. I love that the teaching community is full of so many unique, individual voices because it allows us to reach so many more students than we would if all teachers were the same.
Link to Period 4 student writings
I live on a farm in the country, so for the past few years I sometimes feel like I don't have an actual town community that I belong to. My address is Clarion, and I lived in an apartment there before moving in with my then-boyfriend (now husband) to a farm about five miles outside of town. I belong on the farm more than I ever did in the actual town, and even though I teach and have an active role in the community, I still don't necessarily feel like I am a part of it. Or maybe I feel like Clarion itself doesn't want me to be a part of it. I moved here in 2006, fresh out of college for a teaching job. I had never lived in such a small town, and I didn't understand how different social structure is in a community this size. I could list the negative stereotypes of small-town life that I have found to be true, but in an effort to focus on the positive, I won't. We make our own happiness after all, and I can't blame a town for not being the community I want it to be. Yes, I am stuck here because my husband is a farmer and farmland doesn't move, but I do not have to choose to be miserable because of where I live. I can have a positive influence on this community in the ways I choose, and ignore the aspects of this place that do not add to my own happiness.
Link to Period 5 student writings
My classroom is one of the most important communities in my life. A million different communities have formed here over the past nine years. Each individual class is its own community. Not only is each year different, but each period within each day can vary drastically. I think most teachers would identify this as one of the best parts of our job: you never know what will happen from hour to hour depending on the group of kids. Just looking at the links from my classes today you would see different patterns from group to group. When I think back on previous classes of students, I remember how each group made me feel as a teacher, rather than specific things about each individual student. The kids who are sophomores were notorious for bad behavior, but they were constantly fun and entertaining. The kids who are freshmen now were competitive in sports and academics, and loved lessons that gave them opportunities to compete. Each community takes on its own identity in my mind, and my place in it is as the leader of this room. To some groups, I am a fun member of their community, another part of the madness. To some groups I have had to take on the role of strict dictator. My role makes me an outsider once they leave: they move on, and my community changes for the younger classes.
Link to Period 6 student writings
The world community is something that I never realized I was a part of until I began traveling in my late 20s. I mean, I knew I was part of the world (obviously) but I didn't think about my particular place on this planet in relation to others. It's easy for us to do as humans. Our communities become so insular and our focus is so often turned inward, that we forget how small a part of the world we really are. Traveling to other countries and continents opens up that world in so many ways. I wish everyone was a part of the world-traveler community: I think it would make us treat each other better. It's easy to sit in the U.S. and judge other countries when we've never been there, just as it's easy for others to stereotype us based on our worst examples. But we're all humans, we're all part of this world. If we spent a little more time opening ourselves up to that wider community, I think we'd find more common ground, or at least more respect for each others' differences. It's harder to be judgmental when you get to know other cultures on a person-to-person level.
Link to Period 7 student writings
Whew... Okay, today was exhausting. Writing with my students (a different community for each class period), plus organizing their responses in a shared doc to post on Twitter, in addition to posting excerpts and pictures on Twitter = one tired teacher lady. It's worth it, though. I've shared my students' raw, unedited and uncensored writing with the world, and I gave them a break from our regularly scheduled activities to write about a common topic. It's also been eye-opening for me to have a direct comparison between my 7th and 8th graders: I never have both grades working on the same type of writing at the same time (in order to give myself variety) so it was crazy to read their responses today. I could see the growth between the two grades instantly, and I felt a sense of pride that as the only writing teacher for both grades, I'm part of that growth. This was a fun, hectic day, and I'm glad I interrupted everything to take part and share our words with the world.
I teach 7th and 8th grade English in rural Iowa and hope to reflect, connect, and share with other English teachers. Iowa Council of Teachers of English Executive Board member. Iowa Writing Project superfan. UNI MA:TESS graduate.