Friday, December 20, 2013

In honor of Creative Writing and It's Importance a Freebie to My Followers!

I think Creative Writing simply needs to be taught more! And it needs to be seen as the important and useful writing tool that it is!! Anyone who is following this blog...if you are kind enough to give me a few days, I'll find a way to add a widget to my blog. This post will be a freebie poster you can open and download. The holiday break approaches. God Bless.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Why Creative Writing is Every Bit as Important as the Research or Argument Paper!

This quite recent creation...still a work in progress actually, is based on the types of very serious, very rigorous, and yes, very FUN and intriguing writing activities I did in my semester long creative writing classes for Juniors and Seniors, which in turn was based on many classes I took with professors while I was a student myself.

Is it true that teachers are struggling, this year more than most with the new standards? Is it correct to say the arts are a wee bit "less essential"?

I have always found that poetry and fiction writing can harness critical thinking, the routine of word economy and proper word choice, the ability to pattern, pace, strategize, and more. Additionally, Students have told me, over, and over, and OVER again how the rigors of creative writing had somehow teased their brains into writing better (my words I suppose, not theirs) and gave them transferable skills. I think the passion and enthusiasm I feel, and that students can have for creative writing is so powerful, that the course and its USEFULNESS needs to be addressed.

If there is anyone who would like to discuss, agree, or even raise a question or disagree, I welcome it. I do feel that translatable skills abound in the writing room, as they ALSO do in the music or art room. Students are required for example in a writing class to perform rewrites and drafts, be a part of a community of writers, and make numerous decisions. Writing a full length story is on many levels MORE complicated than constructing in a comparison or argument essay. The reason for this is simple. A story is an organic form, or, a highly complex form purposely organized to appear as if it was effortless. While the goal of an essay is to be clear and accomplish something, a story must do a multitude of things and do it all quite well. Finally, a short story can be lucid, exceptionally well written, exciting and moving, and yet may additionally have a character persuade or argue, implying that the author behind the story must have these abilities. The argument essay itself may only boast at its best that it is very good in its form as an argument essay.

While the comparison or argument essay is an essential essay that must be tackled in school for a Core Standard, one must realize that in writing a story, one can also apply Core Standards to story writing. In the end, students must be given free reign to create, but in the end, the MORE students write, the more VARIED the writing, the more transferrable all of their skills will be and the better they will be as writers. In the end, creative writing is an essential part of a healthy and well-rounded writing diet.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Reason for Inspiring Literary Posters?

I just created a very reasonably priced poster product on

The reason is simple.

Teachers have so much to do. Not much time to do it. And very little money to pay extra for any bells and whistles. It doesn't matter if you teach math, fitness, history, a foreign
language, English...

What you are really doing is so much larger. You multitask as, depending on the day, a stand-up-comedian, a lecturer, a facilitator, a mediator, a therapist, an editor, a computer geek and tech wizard, a friend, a chaplain, coach, a parent stand-in, and sometimes you are all of these things and more in one day.

Regardless of what subject you teach, LIFE and the APPROACH to LIFE is what often concerns a good teacher. You often wonder:

Will he give up or keep trying?
Will this student learn to enjoy the process more?
Can this student become more kind? More happy?
Can he learn to let go and stop worrying?
Will she learn to trust herself and her instincts more...she is so bright, but needs confidence!

AS teachers, beyond the "subject" there are deeper issues. It was an honor and pleasure to spend,
and I am not joking, a month in research on various sources, finding the perfect literary quotes.
In the end, I found ten for this teacherspayteachers posters of inspiration, kindness and wisdom. Not too many, not too little. I designed around the quotes, so teachers, librarians, or even department heads could post them wherever they would like. Then I made them as inexpensive as I could so that many people could use and enjoy them.

I want people to use them. I want the library, learning or writing center, reading or writing nook, any classroom to be a place where the eye rests on a place of encouragement, inspiration or kindness.

  • on a large themed bulletin board (Words of Wisdom from Literary Greats)
  • on the runner space above the black or white board
  • in the library, writing center, reading nook, on class doors or closet doors, next to the entryway to your classroom
  • individually to spark a writing prompt, journal activity and class discussion, or particular behavior in your class.

If Benjamin Franklin tells you not to fritter away time, perhaps you and your students will be filled with the sense of urgency. Your life IS important! And this includes all of your moments.
If Charles Lamb says the greatest joys are good deeds done secretly and found out about later, doesn't it encourage small acts of kindness? Of course there are more, but every positive note, inspiring quote, is helpful. Your students need it. You need it. So do it, and that is probably why I made them...
If Cervantes says that the sky is the limit...well then just maybe a student will think twice before limiting him or herself.

A little kindness and inspiration goes a long way in the world.

Thank you for reading.

The Importance of Gratitude, During the Holidays and Year Round.

I've been a teacher for many years. Part of this time was spent as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia. Years later, I am married, living in New Jersey, and creating teaching and writing materials for teacherspayteachers.

While I was in the Peace Corps...and anyone who spends their time in service I am sure can understand...that realizations assault you at all turns. Even the realizations you have at the beginning are questioned towards the end as you grow into a new person. It is true: the more you give to others, the more you receive in return. You often receive more than the people you help.

Throughout the many years of teaching, in New Jersey, as a tutor, adjunct professor, or high school teacher, and in Ethiopia at the high school level (grammar and English), I feel truly humbled.  It is an honor to teach and to be of service. I know. This is something people say all the time. "It's been an honor." You wonder, "What does that mean? That is just so disingenuous!"

But it IS an honor to help others. It is wonderful to be powerful, a mover-and-shaker, and an entrepreneur in the great and exciting world. But it is a gift to be able to help others, if only because you receive such a depth of satisfaction. It is humbling to know people in a more intimate way, to be allowed to help them, and to feel the reward knowing you had some small measure of agency in helping them grow or improve. THAT is why it is humbling and an honor. That is why to say "It's been an honor" is honest and not a lie.

To be a nurse, a teacher, anyone who helps others, and yes, a person who creates and makes things and puts them new into the world can feel this kind of gratitude about life and the work they do...

How do you keep feeling this way, when your students don't do their homework, the other teachers are really keen on entering your classroom to complain, the parents keep insisting their child did SO much better last year, implying it just might be your fault, or the upper management is not being nearly as supportive as you'd like?

The key to keeping a sense of gratitude is keeping above the daily grind, the annoyances, the pesky irritants.  Focus on why you ARE a teacher, what you love, and what you have and are grateful for.
Know why you are a teacher and be grateful for that, for your students, for all of the things you are, and can do and can change in the world and in your class. If you focus more on what you are thankful for, you will be happier and more productive. Also, you will concern yourself less with those things that annoy you and cannot be changed. Superintendents may come and go. Do you want to be grateful for the new books, the student who finally came out of her shell, and the angry student who did her homework every day this week, or do you want to feel shortchanged because the Superintendent changed the rule and now everyone has to go to school? Remember that you have chosen this job. If this is the case, you are free to "un-choose" it. Would you really do that? If not, then your time would be better spent HAPPY and grateful for what you DO have, and spent thinking about what you can do to make it even better.

To focus on what one DOES have, instead of what one WISHES to have, what one WANTS, what one does not have or worse yet, what others have, is a recipe for disaster. The idea of being grateful, in oneself, for what one has, to God, or for one's family or situation, very much seems saccharine and corny and also THEMED for the Thanksgiving and Christmas rush, conveniently sandwiched in between pumpkins  in October, and the need to join your local gym in January. Nothing could be more off or slant.

The happiest people are those that take time. Time to breathe and to realize "I am here, alive, and breathing. And right now all is exactly as it should be." Though this is for writers, teachers, designers, creators of all stripes, EVERYONE should know that all you have is enough. If you have a person to love, if you have food on the table, if you are warm enough at night, and if you can find some joy in the work that you do and the things that you create, be grateful for it, and practice focusing on those things that you DO have. The world will notice! You will notice, your family, customers, students will notice. And if gratitude is something you only do for a day, when then shame on the advertising executives.

PLEASE, don't misunderstand. I fall off the wagon all the time. Being grateful takes practice. My husband drives me crazy. I drive down the highway and someone veers over into my lane. While I usually feel bad because I just know through this Italian intuition of mine that it has to be an old person who can't drive very well, on this particular day I am incensed and frustrated and yell out in my car "Oh Yeah? Sure, why don't you just drive wherever you feel like it?"

Then I'm in Shop Rite, notorious for having small aisles (is this just near me?) and of course I'm in a rush and people love planting their cart in the center of the aisle to just stand and stare. This doesn't even make me upset. It's the maneuvering of the cart around them; there are always boxes of food not yet put away. Then another shopper shows up, and looks as me as if I'm in the way.

And yet, I too try to feel grateful. In the end, character is what you do when no one in looking. No one may truly know if you practice being grateful for others year-round. But inside, you will know. You will feel lighter and happier. The carts and cars, the people by the water cooler or coffee station may simply not bother you as much. There is a freedom in that. And we return to the beginning, in doing something for others, we will get much more in return. Freedom, happiness, peace of mind? I'll take that everyday and twice on Sunday!