Sunday, January 19, 2014

The weather & the writer's life

As I walk the streets of my neighborhood, the remnants of ice storms, rain, and early-season snow storms are everywhere. Pot holes in the asphalt and mounds of ice on the side streets create an obstacle course for drivers. At times, "walking" those streets meant hoofing through the snow banks on the side of the road. At home, $90 of sand made my driveway safe. Thinking back, I'm not sure I remember such a difficult stretch of weather.
"Route 108 Ice Rink": ice-covered road in Maine
Just these past few days I've been able to get into the woods to hike. Bailey prances when he knows he's about to go off leash, acting like a cow the first time she's let out of the barn in springtime. A bit of warm weather and a dusting of snow on the logging roads and snow mobile trails made the ice maneuverable.

Being stuck inside for most of the past 3-4 weeks gave me time to focus on an article for English Journal. The issue is about using sports literature in the English/language arts classroom; my piece has three parts. First, the article focuses on the ways athletes and their coaches use writing in team notebooks and journals to advance learning and performance in sports. Next, the piece addresses the ways athletes' writing serves as a model for how interest-driven "expressive writing"can be used in an English/language arts classroom. Third, I talk about writing across the curriculum or disciplines in an effort to create "the writing school." As straightforward as the article may sound, I struggled mightily.

Since 2005-2006, I've written extensively about athletic team notebooks and journals. Writing an original piece on this subject meant thinking about my audience: English teachers. Truth be known, English teachers make me nervous. I know… I am one, but still…

In the article I suggest that English teachers might like to adapt their journal-writing practices to include prompts about a student's part-time job, activities (e.g., chess club, student council), or sport. My premise is that writing about "the self"--especially a student's interests--should spawn more authentic and enthusiastic writing. I also believe, like so many writing theorists, that "expressive writing" is a powerful way to learn.

One of my worries is that some English teachers don't require their students to journal. But perhaps if those teachers hear that athletes like football players and ski racers write as a way to learn, that they'll think their English students should, too. It's worth a try.

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