I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear; my courage is reborn.
I live in coastal Maine where summer is the high season for tourists, with lots of young kids on break from college or high school manning the counters at lobster shacks and ice cream stands. This time of year I always think about the menial jobs I had stacking goods on shelves, cleaning pots and pans, and waiting tables till I got to my real career of teaching and writing. But still, it was a pretty linear path. The summer jobs, like summer itself, were brief interludes quickly leading to “grown-up” employment.
Most writers don’t have anything like that clear path to the professional life they dream of living. Their menial jobs last years, not months. Kate DiCamillo worked a series of odd jobs (including at Disney World and in a tiny circus ticket booth). By age 30 she was pulling and sorting books for a warehouse distributor. Kate always knew she wanted to be a writer. It was only when she was assigned to the children’s and young adult book section of the warehouse that she got a vision of the kind of books she might write. It’s a romantic picture of a young girl stealing time on breaks to pull a book off the shelf and get lost in it. But the reality is a lot grittier — warehouse work is hot and grueling, and Kate wasn’t that young anymore when she finally found a way to set aside time to write two pages a day of what eventually became Because of Winn-Dixie.
Stephen King wanted to use his English degree to land a teaching job, but none were available when he graduated from college. He took a job in an industrial laundromat in Bangor, Maine. I drove by it for years and thought of him every time I did. The business was in a huge and ugly orange building on a corner lot in a run-down part of town. Restaurants would send in their white tablecloths streaked with butter, bits of lobster, and maggots that had hatched in the July heat. Steve would make sure they were returned snowy white and clean, smelling faintly of chlorine. It was steamy, nasty, brutal work. And yet somehow the will to write endured. He would leave that job to go home and write in a little boiler-room closet. It was six years before his first novel, Carrie, was published.
Many teachers these days work second jobs all year long, not just in the summer, to make ends meet. And just as many hear that call of the still, small voice that tells them to write—they have important stories to tell. Kate and Stephen are a reminder that it is never too late. It may be hard, almost impossible, to find the time and space to get the writing done. But now is your time. It is always your time to write, if that voice is calling to you.
This week we look at how to care for yourself in the midst of all the stresses of teaching. Plus more as always—enjoy!
Founder, Choice Literacy
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Franki Sibberson realizes there are some bad days in literacy workshops that hold no great life lessons for teachers and students, and that is okay:
We can’t forget the importance of being kind to ourselves. Ruth Ayres explains how small pleasures add up to big delights:
Heather Rader gets a couple of nasty emails from colleagues, and thinks through how to hold on to an attitude of gratitude when dealing with colleagues who are short tempered or demanding:
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Gretchen Schroeder struggles to understand the meaning and value of her teaching when two former students overdose and die in separate incidents, and another is indicted on murder charges. These events lead to deep reflection on how teachers can move beyond feelings of sadness, apathy, and envy:
Stella Villalba uses the inquiry and reflection skills she has developed as a teacher to pore through her planner and journal for clues to why her energy flagged in the winter and spring, and what she can do differently next year:
Mark Levine depends upon a simple meditation strategy during the required moment of silence in his classroom to begin each day with a calm sense of purpose:
We continue our video series on student reading notes from Franki Sibberson’s fifth-grade class. In this week’s installment, Reagan explains how she jots strategies for her own writing on sticky notes:
Our summer break is a great opportunity for subscribers to catch up on all the newsletters you might have missed this spring at the Big Fresh Archives:
That’s all for this week!