Constance As An Educator

I’ve had many jobs in my life. The one I’ve spent the most time doing was teaching. I was an educator. I was especially good at teaching Reading, and I eventually got a Masters Degree and became a Reading Specialist. Before that I had Reading Recovery Training and taught Reading Recovery Lessons for three years.

I enjoyed teaching children to read. I worked mostly with Kindergarten and First Grade.

Now I am a writer. I’ve always been a writer, but I’ve never had time to pursue that career. Now my children are grown and I’m through teaching reading – at least as a daily job – and I’m going to spread my wings and fly as a writer.

I was published in the 1980’s – more than once. I was published a few times in the 1990’s. I’ve become more professional in my writing and take great care to only submit to appropriate markets. There is no need to waste their time or mine. I’ve continued to publish from time to time, but the submissions were not constant or even steady. They were what I had time for. I have several books partially finished. I have articles started and poems written. I could work on what is already in the works and never get it all done. I love to write. New ideas still occur to me daily. I jot them down as I work my way through what is already half done.

This blog is about Constance as a Writer. I am a better writer because of the life experiences I’ve had, including jobs I’ve held. Let’s see how many I remember:

Telephone Operator – that was one of my favorite jobs. You never knew when you went to work if you were going to be helping someone who was trying to get help because their house was on fire, or supplying a phone number to someone who knew what the business sold, but could not remember the name. There was one time when I placed a call to the White House for someone who wanted to talk to the President. It was a fun and interesting job.

I worked as an Order Entry Clerk at Hamilton Beach, Division of Scoville. I set up accounts and entered orders that came in. The company sold small appliances. My mother and my sister also worked there.

I worked as a Student Helper at my college News Bureau. That was through Work Study and it helped pay my way through college. At the end of my college career, I was offered a permanent job there, but I turned it down. I have regretted that. I wanted to be a teacher so badly . . . I really had a hard time paying for college and wanted to reap the rewards of all that college work. But if I had taken the job at the News Bureau, I might have ended up a Writer sooner.

We don’t know these things when we are young. We make mistakes and learn from them.

I worked at Hardees for a few weeks. I worked in a shirt factory. I worked in various offices through a temp agency. I could use a dictaphone and enjoyed typing up insurance accident reports. It was like the person who had dictated the report was telling me an interesting story.

I worked in a grocery store. I worked in a retail store (Belks). I actually started working at age 13 for a man who refinished furniture and lived across the street from my mother’s house. I developed an appreciation for finer things as I helped him make those old, dusty items turn into beautiful pieces of furniture.

I worked briefly in a daycare center. I taught Head Start. I worked for a Justice of the Peace (what we now call a Magistrate).

I worked in the central office of a school board.

I sold Avon.

I was a wife and mother and had the luxury of staying home with my children for a few years.

I’ve done other jobs, but I think I’ve listed enough. . . Oh, I just remembered, I worked at IBM for over a year.

Now I want to be a writer. This is what I expect my last job to be.

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Credit

Credit, credit, credit . . . all anyone wants nowadays is credit cards and credit this and credit that. Does anyone actually pay for anything any more?

They must have the latest, the greatest, the name brand, whatever will impress their friends. Instant gratification has become the American norm.

No one can quit or change a job anymore because they are so deep in debt that they cannot go a week without a paycheck.

I see folks at the grocery store when one card is declined, they take out another one with no shame whatsoever and say, “Try this one.” I have no sympathy for those who live above their means. I am not impressed. I am dismayed and amazed that people are so superficial.

There was a time when credit was shameful. If you couldn’t afford to pay for something, you waited until you could, to get it.

Now Americans and their country are so damned deep in debt.

I get offers for credit cards and credit accounts daily. I DON’T WANT THEM. I won’t be trapped in that vicious cycle that everyone else “enjoys”. You can’t afford to pay cash now because you are still paying for that other stuff you couldn’t afford way back when, and with interest added it, you’re paying way more than whatever it is was ever worth.

Nanowrimo

I’ve started getting emails about Nanowrimo. It’s the novel writing marathon in November. I actually finished a novel one November while participating. Parts of it were good; other parts not so good. I viewed it as a possible site for short stories – since some scenes were very good while others bored even me.

Nanowrimo had some dynamite! merchandise on sale this year, and I made a list of four items to order. I was very disappointed when my only shipping option was 2 days priority mail and the cost of shipping was equal to or greater than the cost of the items. What should have cost just under $20 was going to cost $39. That’s IF I ordered the stuff.

I sent them an email to check on shipping options and there were none. They said if the package weighed more than a certain amount (13 oz?) that it had to be shipped priority mail.

Well, that’s too bad because I will not pay double what I expected to pay just because they say they cannot ship a cheaper way. I was very disappointed. Two of the items were posters I planned to frame and put in my living room. Yes, they were that good. I still have a poster I bought to reward myself for writing a whole novel a couple Novembers ago. I still love it.

I wish I could have ordered the two posters, mug, and teeshirt I had on my order form. I even tried to order each item separately, but the postage cost was still equal to or greater than the cost of the item.

Nanowrimo . . . if you’ve never participated, you might enjoy it. Just don’t take it too seriously. I’ve found that I can easily write 1000 words a day now that I’m not working. It was harder when I was. It seems it came to 1600 words needed to be written daily to get to 50,000 words by the end of the month of November.

I just wish I could have bought those four items.

A Gimmick or An Education?

I’ve been in the education business most of my life – first as a student and later as a teacher. I’ve seen educational ideas come and go, but none ever caught my attention like the Socratic Method did.

I frequently talk to my students. I listen as well as talk. You’d be surprised how much you can learn by listening, truly listening, without thinking about something else at the same time.

It’s a way to informally assess students. Rather than put them through one more grueling test, why not just have a conversation? I’ve been told by some that I don’t teach like others do. No, I don’t. It has sometimes gotten me into trouble; it has sometimes gotten me respect and praise.

It works. I can find out as much about a child’s command of the English language by listening to him talk , as I can by giving him a standardized test. I can see writing errors by having a child write and not immediately demanding that he “fix his mistakes”, as I can by pointing out his errors. In fact, I learn more when I’m not critical. You can teach without being critical. Handing back papers and then putting correct sentences from each one on a board can be used to teach. Now is the time to ask why a capital letter was used here (when it was used correctly). Ask the student. We learn from our peers. Sometimes we even learn better when a peer says it.

Ask another child about his use of a period or a question mark, or some other punctuation that someone else missed, but that you want to point out gently. It’s not YOU DID IT WRONG, NOW FIX IT, but, go back and look at your paper and if you see a sentence without a punctuation mark at the end. If you do, please put that in now. Everyone should be checking his/her own paper at this time.

To me, this is teaching. The new, improved ways to increase student success is just something that worked somewhere that you should try because it worked before. How about if what you’re doing already works? THAT’S what I had a problem with in Professional Development. I usually picked up a tip or two, but changing my whole style just didn’t work for me.

That’s one reason a school has for getting rid of older, more experienced teachers. Those older teachers may have already seen that “new: method used before and know it didn’t work then, and it won’t work now. Why not do what is working?

My most recent school has adopted the “Daily Five” this year. I found a website for it here. You can hover over tabs at the top to see some of the things it includes.  https://www.thedailycafe.com/daily-5 It’s very structured and I wonder where the teacher/student interaction time – when the teacher actually gets to know the student by taking the time to listen to him/her -comes in? Maybe it’s in there and I didn’t see it. All I know is once someone has gone through four or more (I have a Masters degree, so I went through six) years of college, they should pretty much know how to teach. Are all these new, improved methods really necessary? Would it be better to have older teachers share what works in their classrooms and let the younger teachers share their successful methods as well? Does everyone have to change how they teach completely? They do, if their school adopts a new method, and all are required to use it.

I wonder if it’s a gimmick or an education? Ultimately we are trying to teach students to think for themselves. It’s like the old “teach a man to fish/give a man a fish” story. You can teach a child how to learn or teach a child a certain skill – which method helps more in the future? There is room for both, but if you bog down in strict methods that must be adhered to, you may miss something that would have worked.

My students, for the most part, loved me. I would often give them manipulatives and they would “work” with those independently. One of my favorite were the magnetic letters and either a stove burner cover or a pizza pan to use to make words or move letters around to see how words work. Other teachers said I “played too much”. Children can learn through play, and working with words and letters is a learning experience. You don’t always have to be serious and stick to the plan in the classroom. I would monitor and change what we were doing if it wasn’t working. Can you do that with a strict method that insists you follow that plan every single day?

I love to learn. I know how to learn. I just wonder how many new methods and/or gimmicks really teach a child how to learn for himself?

To Write or Not To Write is Never the Question

This morning right after breakfast, I wrote over 1600 words on Book #2 (about the Blindman). I heard that Hemingway wrote exactly 250 words each day. I’ve read about a technique of writing and stopping at the best part of your story because it should make you want to come back to it more quickly. I have a different method in mind.

I’ve been called a prolific writer by several people. I can write a lot and I can write it quickly. That does not mean that I don’t need to go back and edit what I’ve written. Sometimes the manuscript needs numerous edits. But to get an idea or a scene or a chapter down is easy for me when done as a rough draft. My fingers fly across the keyboard and I am ever so grateful to my typing teacher (yes, I’m THAT old) who trained me to type accurately and quickly in high school. It didn’t hurt that my mother was a secretary/court reporter and we had a typewriter in the home. She actually had a book that taught typing and let me use it as I taught myself. The typing in high school was merely for practice. The lessons went boringly slow for someone who already knew the keyboard, but I did shine when we began to see how fast we could type!

Anyway, I type around 70 wpm and my mind moves equally fast. As I’ve said before, not everything I write is great and I spend time later editing. Some things no one ever sees because I decide it is not good enough.

However, to get back to this morning, I had a new goal of 1000 words per day on my book – preferably the Blindman book as that is the one I want to finish first. I typed over 1600 words this morning. There will be editing needed. Sometimes I sit down to type and in doing so, my mind jumps to something similar and off my fingers fly to capture that idea. Case in point is when my scene where I learn someone near and dear has died became a scene where I had a dead battery and how that was handled. Then I returned to the death of the friend. Both things will be in the book, but will not be as close together as they are now.

My mind is like a grasshopper. I wonder if other people’s minds jump around like mine does? My oldest son says having a conversation with me is sometimes difficult because we’ll be talking about one thing and without announcing a shift, I suddenly am talking about something entirely different. We can come back to the original conversation later and often do.

Anyway, to write or not to write is never the question. I write every day. The topic of that writing is going to have to be more disciplined, if I’m going to finish my Blindman book, and if I don’t do anything else in this life, I want that book finished and published. It has a “sister book” on the same topic that I want to write and I’m doing research for that book as well.

I’d also like to write a third book on the topic, but need to rent a post office box and place ads in magazines/newspapers around the country to get first hand stories about the topic.

I dream big. I hope they all come true. I hope I finish this book. From what I’ve heard through nanowrimo, a typical novel is 50,000 words. At that rate, in 50 days, my book should be completed. That doesn’t include all the words I’ve already written. To write or not to write. How can that even be a thought?

Short Stories

Is it progress if short stories I’ve thought about for years get a quick synopsis and an open page on my computer for continued development?

I started one yesterday about dance.

Today I started one about a hit man.

At some point in time I need to finish these ideas/stories. However when I start to work on a story and another plot/idea pops into my head, I’ve learned from experience that if I don’t jot down the idea, I forget it. Sometimes it will reappear much later; sometimes it is gone forever.

Maybe I can work on the two stories at the same time, ie: develop characters, decide on scenes/environments; minor characters, if any. Flashbacks? Dialogue. So much to do . . . so little time.

Both stories are completely written in my head now. I just have to get them down on paper in chronological order with details and dialogue and quick action and editing. Until then, guess what? They will rattle around in my head. I do not write only because I love to write; I also write because I have to write. If all these scenes and characters and stories are allowed to accumulate in my head, I will surely lose my mind.

Rain, Rain, Has Come To Stay

It’s October 1, 2015. There is a hurricane churning in the Atlantic Ocean. They say my state is in a state of emergency. We will have rain today, tonight, tomorrow, tomorrow night, the next day and night and probably the next day and night and maybe the next day.

The hurricane is named Joaquin. I heard it was being upgraded to a Category 4. I’m glad I no longer live near the coast. It’s going to be bad enough here.

I went out this morning and had the oil changed, the tires rotated and the car gassed up. I bought bread and baby wipes and flashlights, candles, dog and cat food, and other things we might need.

I’ve walked the dog in the rain and saw geese or ducks or something that is quacking flying overhead in a V formation. I don’t know if the ducks are coming or going. I don’t know if they know either.

My cat, Hunter, was acting “squirrel y” last night. She knows the weather is going to be bad.

All day it has drizzled. They say the hard rain should start tonight. We have Flash flood watches starting at 8:00 pm.

Power may go off. Trees may fall.

I’m going to go cook dinner and wash another load of clothes. When I’m anxious, I clean. This house should look really good in a few days. If it does, I’ll take pictures.

My son and I have moved the birdbath and the trash cans . . . the flowers in their pots . . . and anything else that might fly around the yard in high winds. They say it won’t be the winds that make the trees topple, but the soil saturation. Ok. Well, that makes a big difference (sarcasm). Toppled is toppled.

Come back for pictures of the results of all this rain. I’ll post them when the rain ends, if not before.