One Word

While surfing the net one day, I came across a very interesting site called

It offers a word a day for a one-minute quick write online. There is a built-in timer that tells you when your one minute is up. However, I have started using it as a 10-minute writing exercise for my grade 6 and 7 students, and I have been writing right along with them. Sometimes I will give them a bit of guidance and sometimes I will simply post the word for them to explore through writing. For example, the other day I suggested they think of our conversations on metaphor to see if they could approach the word of the day as a metaphor. On another day, I suggested they think of personal narrative as they wrote. Most of the time, however, I simply let them write.

Once a week, I will start posting my own selected one-word-ten-minute writing exercises here. Would love comments on these pieces. Thank you!

One word for March 16th, 2015 – Grandfather

I miss my grandfather.

Not my paternal grandfather but my mother’s father. He has been gone for 48 years now and I still miss him.

When I was younger I used to think that he was in heaven watching over me. It has been a long time since I’ve thought about that. Is it because so many things have happened where I felt less than protected? Lonely?

Like right now.

I am in despair. I spent almost all day yesterday planning my classes and it feels like nothing is going well.

Is it the energy in the room?

I need to open the shades, turn off the lights, and open the door.

For some reason, these 10-minute writing exercises on a random word facilitate the development of important ideas regardless of the word that triggers the writing. In 10 minutes I can discover a nagging idea, take action, find solace, and uncover thoughts that have been lying dormant. Love this! 

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Day #2 – #innovategraded, Saol Paulo, Brazil

It’s 5:00 pm.

Throngs of people wind their way across the room to reach the beverage table.

They linger there as if mesmerized by the drinks and snacks.

Lines snake around and behind chairs, tables, and small groups of teachers talking and laughing.

After a day of workshops, the heat has taken its toll.

My foot is swollen.

I am hot and sweaty.

My mind feels less nimble and alert.

So much to digest.

Day #2 is over.

Cross posted to

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Author Skypes

After six author visits to our classroom, five of them via @SkypeClassroom, I am more convinced than ever of the immeasurable value these conversations bring to students.

Listening to authors describe their writing process is priceless.

The writing tips and experiences of published writers mean a lot more to my students than anything I could offer them simply because they see me through the lens of “teacher” and not as a writer; this is my own doing. So, I need to share my writing process with my students, including samples of my writing, and my successes and failures. I need to find a way to help students understand that writers are not only those of us who get published.


We have similar experiences of insecurity when it comes to writing: everything to be said has already been written. Yet, there are moments when writing allows us to discover what’s important about our lives. And, only a daily writing habit will help us get there.

Deep breath.

It’s Day 2 of the Slice of Life March Challenge.

Cross posted to Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge Day #2

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Slice of Life March Challenge

I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve tried to establish a daily writing habit numerous times in the past without success.  I get excited by the latest writing challenge so I sign up right away. I get off to a good start and then…life interrupts. I miss a day and then guilt sets in. So, why would I be participating in the Slice of Life (SOL) March Challenge? Given my previous track record, it would be safe to bet that I will not complete the 31 days of consecutive posts. Add to that the fact that I will be at a conference for five days early in March, and you’ve got a recipe made for failure. But, those are the elements that make challenges more exciting, right?

During last year’s March SOL Challenge, I wrote for 30/31 days. Of course, some posts were better than others and some were written on the fly in order to fulfill the daily writing quota. Nevertheless, I will keep trying to reach that as yet elusive goal to make writing a daily ritual. Maybe being at a conference will give me some writing material. New places, new people, new experiences are always great opportunities for slicing.

So, here’s to 31 joyful days to towards a daily writing habit. I’m looking forward to reading others’ slices throughout this month and to celebrating together at the end.

Let the slicing begin!

Cross posted to

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A Very Brief Review of The Lazarus Rumba by Ernesto Mestre

I finally finished The Lazarus Rumba by Ernesto Mestre!

I started reading in August. It was a slow read for a long time. I would pick it up, then put it down and pick it up several days later, which sometimes turned into weeks. Finally, a couple of weeks ago I decided that I needed to finish it; there were too many other books waiting to be read. I didn’t dislike the book enough to abandon it but I was having a hard time getting through a chunk at a time; it seemed like I was reading two or three pages a sitting for way too long.

So, during this previously unplanned February break from school, I was determined to finish it. And, as it turned out, once I started reading in earnest, I couldn’t put it down. Once again I proved my own theory, and one that I often share with my students: if you don’t read a chunk of a book at a time you can’t know if you really like it or not, and you will not understand, or remember, enough of what’s going on to want to keep reading.

Although I did not appreciate the thread of political conservatism that winds throughout this book, I loved the magical realism side of it. And, as usually happens with books of this type, I wondered what parts of the story were real, and what parts were magical? Or, maybe the important take away is that the entire book is a statement about life as a magical journey that is over all too soon. In the end, whether or not the events in the book are real is irrelevant since it’s always about the story and what the reader can learn about his/her own life, as a result.

Despite some misgivings about Mestre’s political stance in the book, I am planning on reading his second book, The Second Death of Única Aveyano. From the summary of this book on Amazon, it may not take me as long to read it as it did to read The Lazarus Rumba. Keeping my fingers crossed.

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Writing Every Day

For me, the New Year has always been about making resolutions and setting goals for what I want to change in my life. I usually wait until January 1st to start my new regime of exercise or a new diet or an attempt at a new outlook on life, but invariably I fail. I fail because the goals are too big or overwhelming, and I’m too hard on myself if I don’t follow through. I start out OK but before too long, I flounder. And, when I flounder, I get down on myself. And, when I get down on myself, I go back to my old routines and even older habits.

This year, I decided not to wait until January 1st to start working on a new writing habit. I am going to write every day rather than procrastinating because I think I have nothing important to say. Or maybe, the habit I am trying to break is that of procrastinating, or maybe it’s about self-confidence. I often think I can’t do something, not because I’ve tried and failed, but because I didn’t even make an attempt. So, of course I fail. I am going to change that this year. By starting my New Year’s resolution earlier I’ve taken away the burden of potential failure that I’ve traditionally associated with New Year’s resolutions. And, as I write my way to meaning today, it seems that confidence will be my One Little Word (OLW) for 2015.

So, my New Year’s pledge is to write every day but my guiding word will be confidence.

I just love how writing helps clarify so much for me…as long as I write every day…for me.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Cross posted to

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“Hello. How are you?”

Although I started this blog about two years ago, I have not kept it up during that time. Instead I have focused more on my professional blog, A Teacher’s Ruminations, that I try to keep updated as much as possible. During this holiday break, I decided to dedicate this blog space as a personal journal, and a place where I can try out some writing moves and techniques. In that spirit, what follows was inspired by a recent post in Taught by Finland.

When greeting each other, Americans will often say, “Hello, How are you?”, but they don’t really want to know how you are. They just think it’s a polite thing to do. And, it is. Normally, it isn’t anything to complain about when everything is going well, and the answer to, “How are you?” is simply, “Fine.” However, when you are not feeling fine and you want to talk about it, no one really wants to hear it. You can tell this is the case by observing the listener’s body language and the way she or he starts to lose interest after the first few minutes of your lament.

On the one hand, I understand this. Who wants to hear that you’re miserable or having a bad day at work, for example? Those situations inevitably turn into gossip sessions and people end up saying things that they later regret. Usually it’s easier to just say, “Fine, thank you,” and move on.

In many other societies, when people ask how you’re doing, they really want to know. Does that make Americans heartless and senseless, and everyone else kind and considerate? I don’t know the answer to that, and that is not the purpose of this writing. What I want to figure out is the best way to respond to this query without feeling worse – either not listened to at all or falling into a gripe session. Maybe it’s simply a matter of knowing who to talk to about how you’re feeling rather than just anyone who crosses your path. And, maybe it’s knowing social mores well enough that you know who will listen to your lament and who won’t. Oh, and by the way, sharing how you’re feeling at the moment doesn’t necessarily have to be a lament; it could be the opportunity to share wonderful or exciting news.

I think knowing who you are talking to is important. And, this edict holds true for the person who initiates the greeting, as well as for the responder. So, maybe one idea I’m trying to promote is that all of us need to be more culturally savvy. We need to know who we are talking to and then act accordingly so that there is no embarrassment, no feelings of not being listened to, no feelings withheld or suppressed. Doing this may make for healthier groups of people and relationships. And, in the New Year, I am all about striving for healthy living and better communication.

For my part, I am going to prevent feeling disappointed because someone didn’t listen to my sad lament or complaint. If health and communication are to be my two sub One Little Words (just came up with this idea through this writing process), then I need to focus on paying attention to my intuition and making better choices about who I interact with on an intimate friendship level. Just because I am feeling vulnerable or attacked doesn’t mean I can spill my heart out to everyone I meet. Some will respond well but most will not. No one wants to be around someone who is sad or grumpy all the time.

So, maybe Americans have the right idea after all: be polite and ask how someone is but don’t invite too much conversation unless there’s an established friendship that you can trust. Either keep walking or change the conversation.

I have come full circle on this issue even though I didn’t start down that path. My intent was to condemn this seemingly hypocritical American practice and encourage people to share how they are truly feeling to anyone who asks them. However, now I want to encourage cultural sensitivity on both sides and appropriate self-censoring as healthy practices that may enhance communication.

What do you think? Do you agree with what I’ve written here? I welcome your comments.

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