Thursday, June 25, 2015

Well, no, Stephen... I don't think so.

Click to enlarge
Shoot me. 

Saying good-bye

When I was a kid, saying good-bye left me sad and anxious. I'd meet someone visiting our summer camp in Weld or on a weekend exchange for school sports. I'd find them interesting or fun or as confused as I was, and we were fast friends When we parted after the week or a long weekend, I felt bereft. None of my friends were as special as this person...

That hollow, lonely feeling has plagued me for a lifetime to varying degrees. The worst case happens when "my kids" leave after a summer or full-year exchange. It takes me a few days to get out of my funk. When I left Felix at the airport, that empty feeling invaded me. As I turned the car into the driveway at 728 Prospect Avenue, I had to take a deep breath. The next day I climbed Whitecap Mountain at a fast pace and ran down. In the evening, exhausted, I could barely keep my eyes opened watching the Red Sox. In the back hallway, Bailey had collapsed, too. His feet back peddled and little yelps sounded: I like to think in his puppy dreams that once again he chased the boys across the lawn with the soccer ball.

Thursday morning, June 25, 2015
Today, I have their room organized, clothes returned to Caleb, cards sent, and the laundry pretty much done. Their bathroom remains: "Did they ever clean behind the toilet?" I sent a SnapChat to the boys early this morning with a picture of Bailey sleeping on the Victorian couch. They wrote back immediately with photos, reminding me that they'll always be there and that our times together are etched in my memory.

Now, it's time to work in earnest on the second edition of A Guide to Creating Student-Staffed Writing Centers, a book published in 2006. I'm also teaching a couple of classes and trying to keep on the mountain paths. I even bought a new weight bench and hope I can fight off the upper body woes that all aging men suffer.

There's still that hollow place inside, but with each day it gets filled up with the laughter and good memories of a year well spent with two boys that I love and admire.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Climbing Around Howard Pond.

About 12 minutes outside of Rumford there's a little alpine pond wedged between several mountains in the town of Hanover. Howard Pond is a quiet community with dozens of cabins lining the shore. The first hike we took went up an old road through a logging area and up onto more established logging roads. We got glimpses of Sunday River Ski Resort, but no views of the lake. Here are some of those photos:

   After that climb, we went up Woodman's Trail right at the top of the Howard Pond road where you first see the pond. It's a 15-minute hike with a good view.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Clancy, Bailey, and Sharon

Clancy and Bailey are "stuck" with Aunt Sharon this Friday. They've been walking and enjoying this sunny day in Maine. Although Clancy is under the weather, he seems to be doing just fine... searching for food, carrying a ball around, sniffing this and that... he's a good boy.

Is that you, Uncle Richie? 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Out of Print

In 1991, after a summer at Middlebury College's Bread Loaf School of English, I began keeping notes in my high school English classroom. Some notes were written in hard-bound journals and others were kept on scraps of paper and dropped into a file folder. 

I learned about being a teacher-researcher in the classroom of Dixie Goswami and James Britton. Over the course of the summer, they demonstrated how listening closely and writing their understanding helped them "come to know" more about their students, their classrooms, and their own learning. Not surprisingly, their graduate class was called "Coming to Know"; in our class, Dixie and Mr. Britton exemplified teachers as learners.

I didn't know it during the fall of 1991, but the notes I began keeping were the genesis of three books, Room 109: The Promise of a Portfolio Classroom, Beyond Room 109: Developing Independent Study Projects, and A Guide to Creating Student-Staffed Writing Centers, Grades 6-12

This fall, I received a letter from my publisher informing me that Room 109 would be going out of print. The writer invited me to buy the remaining warehouse copies and she promised to send me the PDF of the book to do with as I wished. "109" sure had a good run. I use the book in one of my classes for future English teachers. They always wonder how I managed such a classroom with 115-120 students, especially after I share a collection of portfolios with them. I have great memories of those high school teaching days. They're strong memories because of my students… and because I wrote about them in my notes and then in these books. Here's the back cover copy: 

Click on photo to enlarge

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Writing truly is rewriting. (40/60)

As a writer, I'm entering new territory: I've been asked by my publisher to write a second edition of my writing center book. It's kind of like getting a do-over in life. I sit reading the 2006 book with pencil, highlighters, and sticky notes at hand. Every once in a while I strike out a word, line, or paragraph, saying, "What was I thinking?" It's liberating and fun. Writing truly is rewriting.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Writing, Hosting, and Living….

Birthday Hike on Mt Zircon, October 12, 2014.
Click on photo to enlarge. 
Part of hosting "Foreigns," a.k.a., exchange students, forces me out of my day-to-day. For the past two years I've been pretty much been wading through the same routine every day: writing from 6:30am to noon, lunch, email, a hike or workout, reruns of The West Wing, more email, and bed. In time, that routine bogged me down. Not only did my writing feel bland, but life felt unbalanced. Add two teenagers to the mix ("Rich, I know you don't want us to fall in love while we're here, but is it OK to make-out with a girl?"), and life changes dramatically.

Lea Maurer

I'm finishing another Writing on the Bus companion book. The Swim Team Notebook is coauthored with Lea Maurer of Stanford University. What a privilege to work with Lea. She's down-to-earth, self deprecating, playful, and smart. An Olympic gold and bronze medalist--and a 1998 World Champion--Lea coached Stanford's swim team from 2005 - 2012; now, she's taking time off to raise her two boys. Currently, she volunteers with the men's water polo team at Stanford helping with stroke technique and conditioning.

Writing these team notebooks demands a level of organization and discipline; working with a variety of coauthors has been challenging in good ways. These extraordinary coaches are out of their elements as writers, but they love the idea of the team notebooks. Beyond their coaching expertise, these top professionals bring organizational skills, unique ideas, and a level of discipline and organization that effective writers have. My job has been to make the book project doable for each and to lead them through the book in small, manageable steps. It's been a lot like teaching.

For me, the writer, the team notebook projects don't push my writing skills or satisfy the writer I hope to be. I enjoy the projects and my coauthors, but I don't feel stretched.  Now, with two teenagers in the house for 8 more months replete with their laundry, dinners, school lunches, homework, love lives, sports, Blog, the time they need and deserve, the writer I am has to find balance. Does this mean I am right back to where I started without foreign teenagers? 

This balance needs to include a writing project that inspires. And that's where I sit today… thinking through the possibilities.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The English Journal (39/60)

The English Journal is one of the crown jewels in my field. Some folks may argue this, but I don't care. For me, landing an article in this periodical has been a professional goal.

Click on page to enlarge.