Filling The Motivation Tank

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The start of a new school year brings about a certain amount of excitement … then professional development happens and all that excitement is sucked into a black hole.

I spent the first day back in a district level meeting that lasted from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. with only one break for lunch. The topic: training for the new textbook and website. While this sounds logical – we should know the materials we are using to teach our students – it is in fact ridiculous. I’ve been around long enough to know how to use a textbook and I’m pretty sure I know my way around a website (I’ve only created three of them for my classes). This is a training that should have lasted an hour tops. But no.

Within the first 30 minutes, I had already gone through the entire website and found all the nifty little resources I can access for my students. Then, I found all the mistakes in the tests and quizzes (oh, my goodness there were A LOT of errors). I sat for the rest of the training watching every bit of enthusiasm I might have had for the new school year slowly and painfully drain out of me.

This is pretty much how it goes every year. I learned a long time ago that I have to be responsible for my own motivation. After sixteen years in the teaching profession, I’ve constructed an arsenal of empowering, uplifting, and motivational tools to remind me why I stay in this profession.

Sir Ken Robinson: TED Talks and Books

Every year, Ken Robinson reminds me how important creativity is to learning and how important it is treat students as individuals. He inspires me that I have power to help students learn and explore their strengths and talents. He advocates an education revolution that redefines how schools work and how students are taught. It’s a revolution I quietly foster each and every day in my classroom.

Do Schools Kill Creativity?

Bring on the Learning Revolution!

How To Escape Education’s Death Valley

After watching Robinson’s TED Talks, I flip through his groundbreaking book The ElementI keep a copy on my desk and reference it often. I’ve underlined countless passages and sticky tabbed dozens of pages.

This summer I read Robinson’s latest book, Creative Schools. I had to read it with a pencil in my hand so I could underline nugget after nugget of inspiration. It’s going on my desk, right next to The Element.

David Foster Wallace – This Is Water

Back in 2005, David Foster Wallace gave a commencement speech at Kenyon College. The speech has since been published as both a book and audiobook, (This is Water) It is a deeply moving, funny, and thought provoking observation of education, life, and philosophical perspective. It reminds me to get out of my own head to see things as they really are and to do so with compassion.

Anis Mojgani – Shake the Dust

I first heard this piece of slam poetry at the tail end of Mat Kearney’s song Heartbreak Dreamer. It is an incredibly elegant and powerful piece of poetry that reminds us all to face our challenges and find the strength that lives inside. It was so powerful, I decided not to keep it to myself. I share it with my students during the first week to inspire them to fight through their own personal challenges.

Too bad I can’t convince my administration to borrow a few of these for future professional developments!

A new batch of students is set to walk through my classroom door this week. My tank is full and I’m ready for a new and great school year.

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c.b.w. 2016

 

Are You Sure?

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There are days where I question the choices I’ve made. Truth be told, days like this are becoming more frequent. It’s like every element of my life is playing a little game with me called, “Are you sure?”

Honestly, I don’t know.

Perhaps, its a mid-life crisis attacking a bit early. Or maybe, I am just ready for a change. Admittedly, I am a creature of habit. My very organized self likes a schedule and gets a little thrill when everything works out as planned. This aspect of my personality was a mild quirk when I was younger, but after 14 years of teaching, it’s become a full-blown neurosis. I’m starting to realize this is making life a lot less fun.

Although, this feeling of “life doubt” could also be tied to what I consider a noticeably missing piece of my existence. Travel. Throughout my twenties and early thirties, I traveled extensively overseas. I saved and planned for it, because it was such an important part of my life. However, the last three years have been tough. Between budgets constraints and family concerns, I haven’t really gone anywhere. The fact that my bucket list has largely gone ignored is starting to bug me.

Then, there’s the undeniable fact that I’m tired. Exhausted, actually. Working 10-12 hours a day at a job that is getting increasingly more stressful and frustrating is starting to wear me down. As much as I love the art of teaching, it’s getting difficult to love where I work. I don’t know if it’s just one of those challenging years or if I’m reaching a point of total burn out. Thankfully, my students aren’t picking up my general feeling of frustration (I know this because they constantly tell me they like how positive it is in my classroom). At the same time, I am perusing job postings for possibilities that lie beyond my current station.

With all of this going on in my head, it’s surprising to me that I remain a total optimist. A little funk never wiped the smile off my face and it probably never will.

My family and my writing keep my fire burning. As my novel reaches the final stages of becoming a polished piece of work, I find myself excited to take the next steps. When it comes to the game of “Are you sure?,” this is the one thing where I know the answer is a definite “Yes!”

After a crappy day at work, I love escaping into my dreamworld where my novel finds its way into print. I can wander into lines of poetry and fuss over plot holes while drinking my Muse Juice (Cafe Mocha). When all else fails, there is the beautiful dream of being able to write (and maybe knit a little) all day long. Lucky for me, my husband and furkids are cool with joining me on this journey.

Of course, the game of “Are you sure?” has the added bonus of motivating real change. Besides reconsidering my job situation, there have also been a number of discussions regarding a change of location. We’re thinking the Pacific Northwest might be a nice change of scenery within the next few years. A road trip to scope it out is in the planning stages. Am I sure about moving? Not really, but I’m excited to explore the possibility of something new.

Aside from considering major life changes, I’ve started stuffing money aside for a trip to Amsterdam. My bucket list is in dire need of a check mark and my soul craves the touch of a new experience.

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c.b.w. 2014

Back From The Editor … Now What?

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While I was on vacation, my editor finished up with my manuscript. Being the superstar she is, she sent me two versions of the work she completed. The first version includes comments about the changes she made and grammar corrections (I have a feeling I’m going to get a major crash course in grammar rules after reading through all of them!). The second version hides all the comments and presents the manuscript as it would appear with her recommended changes.

The chaos of returning home from vacation has left me with just enough time to read the only the first page of both versions, but I’m already thrilled with the recommended changes. It’s funny how a fresh pair of eyes and a little rearranging can make such a huge difference!

Now comes the tricky decision of deciding which version to read first. On the plane ride home, I had plenty of time to think about whether I wanted to comb through the comments to get a really good understanding of her rationale before diving into the modified version or if I wanted to simply read the modified version of my novel without any explanations.

Ultimately, I decided to read the “no explanation” version first. My reasoning behind this is simple: I want to read my book as I would any other YA novel and judge it as such. Seeing as my version of the manuscript has been changed, it will be entirely new to me as a reader.

In order to further this “reader” mindset, I’m going to send the modified version to my Kindle Fire. Documents on a Kindle Fire look just like a real ebook, so that should get me in the mood to read it as if were a published novel. I used the same technique when revising the fourth draft of my novel and it worked incredibly well. In addition to creating the illusion of an ebook, the Kindle Fire also allows me to highlight and make notes within a document. That should come in handy when I read through the “comment version.”

Once I’ve read through the modified version, I’ll go back and read through all of my editor’s comments. I’ll likely have a list of notes and questions by the time I get to this version, which I can then reconcile with her rationale. From there, I can decide whether to keep the changes she made or stick with the original version.

The decision to hire an editor wasn’t an easy one and I know the next couple of weeks are going to be a huge test for me as a writer. On one side of things, I have to protect my initial vision, but on the other I need to have thick skin and open mind. My editor only wants the best for my book and it’s important that I remember this as I read through her comments and consider her alterations.

As I get ready to jump into this next phase of novel writing, I keep reminding myself that everything I do from this point on should be focused on making my novel the best it can possibly be. That might mean learning to let go of things I thought were important or considering a new way to tell a story that matters so much to me. The key element in this entire process is staying open to change.

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c.b.w. 2014

 

Time For A Change?

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My blog has looked exactly the same for three years. When I first set the theme, I loved the color, simplicity, and atmosphere. In many ways, I still love my blog’s theme, but I’m also starting to feel the itch for something new. As my writing and creative pursuits grow and evolve, it seems only fitting that my blog reflects the changes of both myself and my muse.

The problem is I can’t decide what kind of changes I want to make. Do I want something sleek and modern? Or colorful? Or minimalist? The possibilities are endless and its hard to pinpoint a style that is both progressive and reflective of my creative interests. All I know is I like color (subtle, not bold), horizontal headers, and a simple layout.

It’s tempting to go with what I traditionally prefer, but I’m also considering a massive departure from the norm. I spend so much time on my blog, I’m curious to see how a drastic change might shake up my muse. Perhaps, my muse will be inspired to try new and exciting avenues of artistic creation.

While a foray into something new could open up new doors, there is something to be said staying true to myself. I don’t want to wander too far away from who I am or how I want to express myself. The last thing I want to be is fake blogger who represents one thing but thinks another. This blog has always been and always will be about following my muse.

Am I over thinking this? Probably. It’s as simple as picking a theme and clicking a button, right? Wrong! If I choose a theme that is too different from my current layout, I’ll have to go back and re-format over 600 posts. I may even have to reconfigure my footers, widgets, and menus. Nothing about that sounds fun!

Despite my misgivings about having to re-format, I am well aware that my blog is starting to look outdated. Pretty soon, it’s going to occupy the same shelf as cell phones with buttons and heavy laptops. No one wants to visit a blog that looks like a relic from the past (unless it’s a history blog!), nor do they want to spend time navigating a site with an archaic set-up.

As I contemplate the prospect of change, I’m reminded that things always do and must change. The last thing I want is for my muse to stagnate in a vortex of “sameness,” so I better get busy and start making some big decisions. If my blog looks a little strange over the next couple of weeks, chalk it up to experimentation on my part. I hope you’ll stick around for the remodel!

Here are some of themes I’m considering at the moment:

Fictive

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Flounder

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Writr

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BonPress

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Retro-Fitted

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What do you think?

 

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c.b.w. 2014