Letter Writing Day: My Thoughts on Returning to the Classroom

My Back-to-School Letter to YouToday, September 1, is Letter Writing Day. In keeping with this, today’s post comes to you in the form of a letter.

Dear Friends,

As you read this, I will be attending my first day of the 2016-2017 school year. Although it will only be us teachers and administrators in the building, I am excited.

First of all, I am excited to get back to my little library. As the school year ended in June, I sent out several boxes of new books to get processed, and I have learned they are done and waiting for me beside my desk! We also ordered additional bookshelves. (Our original shelves were packed and overflowing, especially after all the students turned in their library books in June!) After having some disturbing dreams this summer in which architects and interior designers messed up my beloved library (while supposedly giving our building a cool new look), I am eager to get back and see it with my own eyes!

I am also eager to get back to our students. Some will be returning from last year, and it will be a pleasure to see them again. Others will be new. I experimented a bit at the end of the last school year and learned that for students who are only about 5 points away from passing the GED RLA test, refreshing/or teaching for the first time a set of punctuation skills–for example, the many and varied uses of commas, or capitalization rules, is all it takes to put them over the top. I will include more general writing convention lessons in my teaching this year.

 I also learned the reading speed students need to attain in order to be successful taking their GED tests. This fall, I will implement reading speed tests for all students as part of their entry pre-assessments (in addition to the sentence structure pre-assessment I already have them do). This will help me better identify and assist those students who have not yet reached the needed  reading level to be successful in taking their tests.

A hard part of giving up summer is giving up my extended fiction (and blog) writing time. However, as in years past, I will continue to write each workday before school starts, and on my Wednesday afternoons off. I have learned I can get a lot written in 20 and 30 minute intervals if I practice them consistently. I also pledge to continue blogging. I enjoy thinking about what might interest you, what might help you, and what you might bring you pleasure or inspiration. Please say a prayer for my fickle health. That is always the wild card in developing a fully literate lifestyle while working nearly full-time.

I also look forward to some solid reading time. It’s funny, I expected to get a lot of reading done this summer. I can stay up later at night with no pesky alarm clock at 6:00 A.M. I can pick up a book in the middle of the day. However, while my non-fiction reading has been as abundant as anticipated, my fiction reading has taken a hit. (I am such a workaholic! Very bad habit. Don’t let yourself fall into this trap.) So I am excited to return to our schools “Reboot” schedule. Every day, before work time starts, students are given 15 or more minutes to just quietly read or write (Ha-ha-ha–little do they know, they are building their languages arts skills while they transition between life outside our doors and life in the classroom!). And (this is the best) teachers are strongly encouraged to model this behavior for them! I can hardly wait!

So, while it is sad to say good-by to the freedoms of summer, a lot of good lies ahead in the upcoming school year, and I can enter it having achieved my summer writing goal–the revision of my historical fantasy novel, THE SWALLOW’S SPRING from close third person, past tense into first person, present tense. I am so excited by how much immediacy and intimacy the shift has given my prose.

I can also say summer 2016 has taught me a fabulous new skill–working in intervals. Midway through the summer I was only about one sixth of the way through my revisions, and I was so depressed. Therefore, after reading, serendipitously, some articles about optimal work/break strategies (here’s one), I decided to divide my time between writing/revising and housework/summer projects by working in 45 minute to 1 hour intervals on my writing, then spending 10-20 minutes on my other responsibilities. It worked! I am thrilled. By the time you read this, I’ll have one, last, sixth of the novel left to revise, and I shall finish it during Labor Day weekend. Hurray! Then, let the submitting begin.

I hope you, too, have had a good summer and have something to look forward to in the coming months,

Your reading & writing friend,

P.S. Learn more about Letter Writing Day here.

P.S.S. What have you appreciated about your summer? What are you looking forward to in the coming months?