A Rotten Afternoon

slice-of-life_individual“So, please introduce yourself and say why you want to be in Writing Club.”

We worked our way around the circle.

“I’m here because I want to finish writing a story I started last year.”

“I’m here because I really like writing.”

Then a student started giggling and announced, “I’m here to write about Chicken Nuggets!”

Multiple students dissolved into gales of laughter. After order was restored, we continued. A student started to introduce himself by his given name, and his friend interrupted him, “No, you mean you’re Timmy!” she cried.

“Oh, yeah,” he said, “I’m Timmy!” and laughed maniacally.

“Chicken Nugget!!” another student called out, accompanied by more laughter from some, and confused and/or annoyed looks from others.

And so it went on.

I made it through the hour. Barely. I spent most of my time redirecting, reprimanding and regretting my decision to have an after-school Writing Club. My only bright spot was that somehow quite a few students actually wrote to the prompt and had something to show for their independent writing time. I have no idea how, given my largely unsuccessful efforts to lower the volume to a reasonable level.

Now I’m home, drinking wine, and regrouping. I didn’t have the energy to go to my own Writing Group, which made me even sadder and grumpier.

Sometimes you just have to tell it like it is.

Writing Club

slice-of-life_individualI finally decided to do it. I had hemmed and hawed for a long time before committing,  but finally I did it. I signed up to become…the Writing Club Advisor. Eek! I wasn’t at all sure that I wanted another school-related thing on my plate, yet I wanted to share my love of writing with students in a “freer” zone. Sure, the kids in my classroom know I write and I share that process and my enthusiasm on an ongoing basis. However, I can’t say I’m in love with essay writing and it seems to have a bit of a strangle hold on the fourth grade writing curriculum. 

Ok, I feel guilty even writing that. I need to work harder to feel the essay love!  There really are parts of essay writing I love…the feeling of finding just the right compelling evidence, the perfect quote, the stirring lead or satisfying conclusion. There’s a lot to love. But overall the genre is not what stirs me to write, and we do a lot of it. Maybe it’s the fact that my own life isn’t spiced with strong opinions. I’m more inclined to find a common ground than to take a divisive or rebellious stance. Is personality trait something that influences genre preference?

At any rate, I took the plunge and created and posted flyers for Writing Club. I deliberately did not send notices home with students. I didn’t want parents to sign up their children. I wanted students to self-select to be in this club–Students who are motivated to come and write.

Then I sat back and waited to see if there would be any response. And there was!  Ultimately, 23 kids from 4th-7th grade signed up! Wow! I debated about capping the group as the forms trickled in, but just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Last Tuesday was our first meeting. After a truly impressive amount of after school snacking (writing is hungry work! Well, pre-writing really…), we formed a circle on the carpet. I gave a brief introduction and then said, “So, let’s start by getting to know each. Can you introduce yourself and say why you signed up for Writing Club?”

If you ever need a cure for teacher burnout, sit in a circle of motivated student writers and listen to them all state some variation of “I’m here because I love to write.” My personal favorite was, “I want to write stories to inspire other people.”  Or maybe it was, “I’m here because I really want to write, and…..(very long pause)…and yeah, I really want to write!”

We started with a prompt. For ten minutes, the room was silent other than the scratch of pen and pencil and the shuffle of notebook pages.  Another antidote for burnout–Capture that sound and sell it on Teachers Pay Teachers!

I’m so glad I finally decided to do this.