In Honor of the National Day on Writing . . . What Else? A Writing Assignment from the Director.

By Sara Runge, October 19, 2009 12:56 PM

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Charles and Tom and I are looking forward to spending the first National Day on Writing with Aggie Sullinger and her students at Grant County High School. Wherever you and your students are tomorrow, and whatever else you are doing, I hope you will set aside some time to write together, to create bodies of work for the National Day on Writing Gallery we will put up on this site soon.

And I want you to do one thing more, please:

Northern Kentucky Writing Project Summer Institute 2009 was a wonderful, amazing experience. Your participation, your work, and your writing surpassed even my wildest and most imaginative expectations. I am so proud of all of you, and so very happy and honored to be part of the special community we created together.

When you applied for admission to SI 2009, you wrote answers to these two questions:

  1. Using any form of writing you choose, please describe yourself as a teacher.
  2. Using any form of writing you choose, please describe yourself as a writer.

Tomorrow, in honor of the National Day on Writing, I would like for each of you to sit down and write new answers to those two questions, then log on to the private section of the NKWP site and post them. I believe it will be exciting and fun to see how we all have grown.

I can’t wait to read all your posts!

14 Responses to “In Honor of the National Day on Writing . . . What Else? A Writing Assignment from the Director.”

  1. Lorie Lech says:

    My mind is already spinning!! I can’t wait to write my own response and read everyone else’s! I am excited to celebrate this holiday (well, it is a holiday for all of us at least!!)with my own students!

  2. Lorie Lech says:

    Okay, so I decided to be a guinea pig so we can get this started. I am posting my response to number 1. describe yourself as a teacher. Here goes!

    Rebel With a Cause…
    When I look back on my past several years of teaching, and still today, there is one word that comes to mind: rebel. I like to think of myself as a rebel in the world of education. Some may say, “Oh, you mean a non-conformist,” but, no, I am a rebel no doubt. I am a rebel WITH a cause.

    My cause is solely to be an advocate to each and every child that walks through my door. My blood, sweat and tears as a teacher is all for one thing (or 30 for that matter!): the children. I am nothing without them.

    I am sure you may think that every teacher feels the same as I do, and for most I do not doubt their dedication to our youth. However, there is one thing that I feel sets me apart from others I have worked with over the years. I rebel against the robotic ways that districts and schools try to turn teachers to. When other teachers seem content or relieved that there is a one-size-fits-all or pre-made-so-I-never-have-to-plan-again program, I am nauseated. I will NOT stand by and watch my students be tormented and brainwashed by such cookie-cutter ways! My kids are every bit of individuals and deserve to have an individualized curriculum. I will give this to them, whether it means going against those higher than me—my kids deserve this and have every right to it!

    Now, I do not just throw my hands up and say to my administrators that this or that is absolutely idiotic. I said I was a rebel with a cause, if you remember. Instead, my rebellion is strategic. I make a plan to overthrow the mainstream ways. I research and investigate best practices to meet my students’ needs so I have support to back up my plan. Then I set it into action and collect data on its success. When I am caught in action and pressed to know why I am not doing what everyone else is doing, I am able to prove that I AM a rebel with a cause. And do you know something? Sometimes, rebelliousness can catch on…in a positive way!

  3. kthomson says:

    I think as a teacher I have to turn to my students for the answer to this question. One of my 7th graders asked me last week, “Do you ever feel like our mother?”
    “Yep,” I replied. “I have 105 kids.” This of course led into a whole other discussion that only a 7th grader could imagine! :)

    I think my maternal approach to teaching is what comes to mind first. I’m not always able to be the cookies and milk waiting on the kitchen table when you get home from school kind of mom. Sometimes I’m just plain tired and cranky. Othertimes, I have to give tough love. I have to hold my “children” to high standards so that they know just how far they can go. I sometimes have to be a disciplinarian when they make choices that earn them a negative consequence.

    Even though my 105 children wear me out, bring me to tears and sometimes just frustrate me, at the end of the day I care for them all.

  4. kthomson says:

    I burst out of the gate.
    Hands fly in whirlwind tan and peach.
    My calloused perfectionist finger grips
    the pen tight.
    My mind beats with words, words,
    words.
    I cruise around the track
    not looking around,
    not stopping to think.
    Breathless I finish.
    I sip my victory cup
    and savor the thoughts
    on the page.
    But.
    The adreneline fades.
    The phone rings.
    The dryer buzzes.
    I allow life to rob
    me of another
    time around the track.

  5. asullinger says:

    As I sit here and think about myself as a teacher, the phrase “jack of all trades” definitely comes to mind. I look at myself as a teacher, a friend, a mom, a cop and even a nurse…ALL in the span of about 7.5 hours.

    At the end of some days, I think I don’t have anything else to give. I never feel like my job is finished. When I go home at night I bore my husband with stories of the day, grade papers, plan lessons for the next week AND I even dream about my students…most nights!! It’s like you can’t get away, not even for a minute. The nagging responsiblity that I feel for to my students follows me no matter how hard I try to shake it.

    Despite all of this, I LOVE what I do and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life. When the alarm goes off at 5am, I may sleepily drag myself out of bed, but I NEVER wake up with a feeling of dread. I get ready, drive an hour to school, open my classroom door and smile as I thank God for giving me the strength to do it all over again.

  6. asullinger says:

    Writing is a comfort that I need. Nothing comforts me more than writing…whether it be jotting down a few thoughts, to composing that fiction piece that I can now share with my students. Writing comforts me like nothing else can…it has always been a part of me. Today, Charles shared with my students that after his son’s death, he sees life differently and that in turn effects his writing. I find this to be true with my own writing. My childhood definitely effects the way I write and the way I look at life. Writing helps me deal with things from my past, but it also encourages me to focus on the presnt and the future. Being a writer is one way I define myself. Writing will always be a priority in my life. I’m looking forward to putting together my wedding scrapbook which will be a compilation of pictures and written words, reflecting on the importance of that day. I only hope that I can pass along my enthusiasm of writing to my students, so that they too can experience the power it can have on life.

  7. Lorie Lech says:

    Aggie, you are so good with words! You are such an inspiration to your kids, no doubt, but you have given soooooo much to the Writing Project! Everytime you do in your classroom what you did each day at Summer Institute, I am positive you are lighting fires that will NEVER be put out! I would have loved to be a fly on the wall in your classroom today!

  8. asullinger says:

    Awe, thanks Lorie!! You are super sweet! I always look forwared to reading things you’ve written because you always make me laugh! Sometimes I wish I could put that kind of humor into the things I write. You are very gifted!! :o )

  9. Sheila says:

    I use to think of myself as a teacher a.k.a. facilitator. However, the longer I teach the more I see myself as a student. It is the constantly changing demands of the school administrators, but it also something that comes from deep inside of me to always challenge myself to do better. I guess this is why at the age of 54 I am participating in a writing project. I could ride it out. God knows a lot of teachers younger than me are doing just that.
    This year is proving to be a struggle for me. I am being plagued by unending health issues and adjusting to a new job, which I love. I struggle with how to help struggling readers while fighting back the overwhelming sense of responsibility, all the while being aggravated at the complacency of some of my fellow teachers. This is on top of the, you may only use research-based programs. Forget getting to know the students or just let them read. No, they need to have an intervention of Orton-Gillingham or Great Leaps.
    So, back to the original assignment, describe myself as a teacher. I am a facilitator with a mission to learn along with my students. We (the students and I) may stumble, but we will learn and grow.

  10. Sheila says:

    This summer was fantastic. I know the writing project was different from what some people thought. However, for me it was a gift. It strikes me as kind of funny when I look back over the summer. I was asked to step way out of my comfort zone and I can honestly say I loved it. The whole atmosphere was a safe environment. I needed a safe place to share my writing and I found that amongst our group. Thanks guys!
    My view of what a writer is has changed. I may never publish an article, book, or poem, but I have learned that my thoughts are mine to share with myself and if I feel like it, others. I have discovered a sense of freedom that comes from expressing ones thoughts on paper. I sometimes put on paper what I might never say in person. This gives me a tremendous feeling of relief.
    I still may not journal to the extent of others, but it is enough for me at this point in my life. Most of all, I feel my students have reaped the benefits from my experience in the writing project. They too have proven to be a safe environment.

  11. Lorie Lech says:

    Welcome to the site Sheila!!! Thanks soooo much for posting! You have NO idea what a gift YOU are to the project!! I think the environment we had over the summer is what has such an impact on the writing. It gives what we do a stronger sense of purpose. It was so amazing to see everyone change and grow throughout the summer and still today! Can’t wait to see you and everyone on Saturday!

  12. kthomson says:

    I love reading your words, fellow writers!! It makes me long for our freezing room at NKU. I’m suddenly feeling a need for some mindfulness time! :) Looking forward to seeing everyone on Saturday!

  13. Sara Runge says:

    I’ve read and re-read the posts and I am just tingling with excitement (and pride to be honest). I see such growth in your writings and your reflections are so honest and inspiring. I can’t wait to see what your fellow Fellows post in the coming days. Keep on writing!

  14. asullinger says:

    Very well said Sheila!! I felt very safe in our little community as well this summer…I was surprised at my willingness to share, after that first scary time. My writing is so personal, and usually sad, that I tend not to share because I don’t want to depress others. I’m learning, nevertheless, that by sharing my writing, I’m finding more people with similar circumstances…especially in my kids who come from a very rural and poor settings. I’m so excited to see what our future holds…see ya Saturday!! HUGS! :o )

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