Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Learning from the SOL Challenge

I'm behind posting this week. It bothers me--not only because I hate to miss deadlines, even when they are self-imposed, but because I have come to depend on it professionally. Making myself sit down and purposefully, deliberately reflect on some aspect of my teaching life has become an important part of my professional growth.

Part of why I'm behind this week is that most of my energy and time for writing has been diverted this month. I have been participating in the Slice of Life Challenge hosted byTwo Writing Teachers. I started "slicing" at the urging of my friend Ruth Ayres and continued with encouragement of our writing group and the larger community of slicers that comes together for this challenge each March. I even talked a couple of colleagues into joining me. As the month draws to a close, I've been thinking about how participating in the challenge to write ever day for a month has impacted me professionally. There are lots of things that come to mind, but 2 seem especially important to me.

I have always believed that being part of a learning community is important--that having others to push and encourage us is important. Now I realize that supportive communities can spring up quickly when everyone in the group commits to the same focus and also commits to acknowledging not only the successes but also the attempts of others. Part of the challenge is to comment on at least 3 other writers' posts each day. In doing so, we've encouraged each other, celebrated breakthroughs and bits of great writing, and also lifted each other past the inevitable rough patches. Now I am imaging professional learning communities at school in which we are not only expected to share our experiences around our learning, but are also required to respond to each other about what is shared.

The other big realization that has come through participating in the challenge is that living like a writer is hard. Really, really hard. As a teacher of writers, I have regularly expected my kids to write something every day--to be like writers. I have taught lessons about where writers get their ideas and how ideas are all around us; we just have to learn to notice them. While I still think I believe that, what I've learned is that when I make myself do that very thing...I get stuck. I sit in front of my computer, looking at the blank screen thinking, "I have nothing to write." I have learned that sometimes that happens to writers, and that living like a writer really means to know that and to learn how to work past it. To accept it and know that it's normal. I've learned that sometimes writers may have something they really want to share or express or teach with their writing, but often daily writing consists of little "bits of nothing". In fact, that's where our writing group got its name--Bits of Nothing (of Something). I've learned that there may be blank pages some days, and there may be lots of little nothings before a writer hits on "something". This will impact how I teach writers and how I respond to them. My teaching will change because I spent a month doing exactly what I have asked my students to do.

So I'm glad I am doing this challenge. I won't lie--it has been really hard at times. But it has also been fun. I feel stronger and more confident as a writer. I learned a lot about myself and about living like a writer and about teaching writers. I will continue to participate in slicing on Tuesdays on the Two Writing Teachers site, and I will do the challenge again next year. If you find yourself thinking about joining in, check out the site. If you are nervous about sharing, I'll even go first--my slices for the month are at slicesfromthesofa.blogspot.com (Slices from the Sofa).


  1. I'm glad you're coming out on the other side of the month with a smile and a happy heart about the challenge. Thanks for this post. I'm glad to hear how SOLSC is impacting you as a teacher and a person.
    Happy writing,

  2. Well said! You said many things just the way I feel but you said it better than I did! This helped me beyond my expectations! I plan to do this again. I will plan to read your blog next year. Do you do slice of life on Tuesdays? Happy Slicing! :)