A few days ago my principal asked me to speak to the staff at my school about the National Writing Project conference I attended in Philly. I thought about what to share. At first I thought I’d share the hilarious genius of the poet Billy Collins. Then I thought I’d share about a workshop I attended on writing across subject areas. Both of those sounded just fine to me, except that another idea kept poking at me, whispering into my ear, disrupting my dreams even.
I felt compelled to share about the LOVE Statue.
I wanted to talk about something bigger than the conventions of writing and instead address the purpose of writing. To present writing as an expression of feeling, as a call to action, as a response to an experience that changed me.
Oh man, that is not even close to what many people consider in the box of “writing instruction”. Thankfully my principal is an out of the box kind of guy and when I pitched him my idea, he gave me the okay.
I was honored. I was excited. I was terrified. Talking to my colleagues about my experience would mean reading them something I wrote. Like, out loud, at the front of the room and stuff.
After fighting back the urge to hurl, I summoned my bravery from the pit of my rolling stomach. Being a writer means taking the risk to share. At least that’s what I told myself.
The staff meeting was today and I sat listening to my principal talk about copy machines and new phone systems and all the nuts and bolts that make a school run smoothly. I tried to listen attentively, but my stomach was aflutter and my heart was hammering. Then it came time for me to share. I begged for God to have mercy and take me to Heaven right now.
He did not. So I stood up and took a deep breath.
I talked a teensy bit about an upcoming writing series I’m co-facilitating and I talked a smidge about the conference and then I read my piece.
My voice shook. My eyes welled up when I came to the part about being ashamed. I pushed to the finish and waited for an accordion of groans and a slew of pencils flung at my eyes. Instead they clapped. And smiled. And wiped their eyes.
I talked about the discussion Terry and I had about what it means to act in love, to seek out opportunities to show empathy. Then, we wrote about what it means to love, about big and small ways we can show love.
That’s right, we wrote as a staff at a staff meeting. It was a quick write and then I asked for volunteers to share out. And people actually volunteered. What they shared was moving and brought a fresh run of tears pricking my eyelashes.
In a time of standards and testing and budget cuts, it was water to my soul hearing about the heart my colleagues have for each other and our students.
At the end of the meeting, seven colleagues signed up for the writing series I’m co-facilitating. Seven teachers willing to give up time on a Saturday to better themselves as teachers of writing, to better themselves as writers. I have a beautiful opportunity to discuss within my teaching community the importance and power of writing.
Between now and then, I’m going to dig out my brave face and quell my squeamish stomach in hope that come January we will all be reading our writing out loud to each other. And I couldn’t be more excited, more honored or more terrified.