Writerly Life

Worth. It.

At 4:45am my iPhone lights up, with the appropriately named “blues” ringtone going off in the background. At that time of the morning, I am desperate for anything but getting out of my bed. Even if I think about going back to sleep, I can’t. I can’t go back to sleep because I am a teacher, and waking moments are filled with “What will I do next?” lists that inevitably propel me forward.

Soon I am ready for my ride to work; currently, I’m listening to the audio book Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I have found it a necessity that I practice what I preach, and so I’m reading, okay sometimes listening, books whenever I find a chance. The only break from this is when I stop at my local Starbucks, for my daily cup of love, Grande Pike with soy. When I pull into the parking lot, I’m the first one there, I let the last few lines of dialogue spill from the author, as I put my coat back on, and look around the car to see how many bags I’ll have to carry in today. Seven. Not too bad. I can carry them all in one trip.

I walk down the quiet hallways reminding myself of what’s important about today. Today I will teach them how to talk, about analyzing good argument writing. I’ll remind them that good writers are good readers and good talkers. And I’ll give them lines to say to each other such as: “So what I think you’re saying is . . .”, “The evidence we have for that is . . .?”, and “Isn’t the real issue here . . .?”. As I unlock the door, I promise myself to make a wall chart with them, I want them to see this language written down, to have it as a safety net, if they forget what to say.

As I unpack my bags, I’m visualizing this chart in my head, wishing that someone had taught me in middle school to speak eloquently in an argument. I think about the Common Core, and the standards I know I’ll be hitting today—8.W.9 & 8.R.9 (for Christmas break this year, I tried to memorize these standards, I know them well, but sometimes I have to keep telling myself them in order to make sure I’m doing it right). I wonder what colors I should use and how big I should make it, and still have the chart be useful. I run through my words in my head. I want to say it right the first time; this lesson is important to us.IMG_2945

Soon I am sipping my coffee, reading through my e-mails, answering a few, and checking to make sure I know what page a few of my favorite kids should be on in their independent reading books. When the bell goes off for the kids to enter the building, I am almost always surprised. I could have used more time. The kids are always quiet as they enter the building at 7:25am; it’s like they know the teachers are just waking up too. And then, like that, the day begins. Students tell me of their athletic victories the night before, compliment me on my curly hair, and ask me wide eyed once again, “What are we going to do today, Miss Smith?”

Take over the world.

This job is not easy. This morning routine is not easy. But believe me, it is worth every second of it. When I see my students two years later and they tell me, “Whenever I get upset, I write—remember how you taught us that?” Or when the student in front of me says, “I stayed up so late, because I couldn’t stop reading my book!” Or better yet, when in the middle of the standards, and the grading, and the keeping on top of it, you get to watch a kid stepping into who they will become. It is worth it.

There are plenty of things wrong with the teaching field. Plenty of things to complain about. But, if you’re teaching and you’re stuck there, in the complaint field— that’s too hard, too much, too little—  I’m begging you step back and embrace why you’re here or get out. These kids need the focused, hard working you, who recognizes the beauty in the craft, who recognizes that people are worth it.

Our kids are worth it.

With love,


Classroom Reading Writing

An Open Letter To My Students:

Dear Readers, I forgot to share this letter with you. It was meant for my students, and while they have read it, I feel it is important to share with you too, because you have become part of this journey. Thank you for joining along with me this year or for as long as you have been reading. Thank you for your comments and constant hits on the site, even when I lag in posting. Enjoy!



An Open Letter To My Students:

On the first day of school, the look on your faces when I told you to read five books by the end of September was priceless. And then when I told you, to write for twenty minutes a day on top of that, the fear in your eyes almost made me back down. But at seven years into teaching, I’ve learned not to trust your eyes, at least not in moments like that.

However, the truth is I wasn’t sure if you could do it. I mean my fancy teacher books, blogs, and workshops had said that you could, but I wasn’t sure. It seemed like an insane amount of reading and writing. Even when I asked my Mom about it, she thought I was crazy (and my mom, well she’s my teacher expert hero). And so what you might not have heard in the mist of your fear was the trepidation in my voice— and maybe that has been our journey. Fear.

Maybe what you don’t know about me is that I love safety. There is nothing more comforting than knowing an outcome before a task has begun. In my past, if I didn’t know the outcome, I simply would have found a different way. The risk of failing, the risk of getting hurt or worse being laughed at, has always been too great.

Yet for some reason this year, the fear felt like less of a “stop right there” and more of an “I dare you to try”.

I was at a crossroad in my career passion and you gave me your hands, your pencils, and your trust. At night, sometimes I would wake up panicked, wondering if I had a lesson that would engage you, wondering if I was giving the right amount of feedback, wondering if I was still the teacher you needed me to be.

Then came you. You guys took what I gave you, and brought it to the next level. You exceeded my expectations academically, forcing me to raise the bar again and again. But that wasn’t all; you got excited and started dreaming too. Soon your dreams and ‘what ifs’ became our new curriculum. I wasn’t alone at all; I had 75 people planning with me, giving feedback, dreaming bigger.

I need to thank you for pushing your fears aside. I need to thank you for giving me the freedom to teach you as individuals. I need to thank you for allowing me to fail and for dreaming with me again.

After 180 days together, these are the messages I hope we both take home: When life hands you a healthy dose of fear and you’re not sure you can go on, know that sometimes when fear whispers it’s less a place to stop and more of a dare to press on. When your plans fail, when something doesn’t work, and everything falls to pieces— keep dreaming, keep chasing after . . .  there is a supercar just around the corner.

In closing, I believe children’s book author A.A. Milne has said it the best, “If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together . . . there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

Sincerely your teacher, mentor, coach, editor, hairdresser, stain remover, relationship advice giver, DJ,  fearless dreamer,


Miss Smith