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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for March Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for March Slice of Life Challenge.

I am taking a watercolor class. Like most art classes I’ve taken, the first few classes are frustrating for me. I feel defeated. I criticize myself over and over. This is very unattractive behavior, and my teacher is patient. He doesn’t praise me, though. He tells me that these techniques build upon each other. I am learning. It’s a process.

On Tuesday, I had my 4th class. It has taken me a while to create something I wanted to share with others. I finally pulled together the techniques into one art piece that I actually liked. My teacher pointed out the things I did well. The thin lines for branches, the shadows, the light. But still he held back. I said I was pleased with it, but he did not give out a great deal of empty praise. In fact, he told me to practice.

Watercolor pine tree by Margaret Simon

Watercolor pine tree by Margaret Simon

Sound familiar? How we try to lead our students through the writing process. We teach techniques. We look at models. We praise when we see a craft move. These lessons build a writer, but the process can be slow. It can be frustrating. Eventually, the writer will feel good about the product.

The motivation has to move away from teacher approval. The writer/artist must own the process to feel success.

My students have started the classroom Slice of Life Challenge. They are practicing. They are trying craft moves. They are noticing techniques in each other’s slices.

The creative process is a curious thing. We need to learn techniques. We need the guidance of teachers. But in the end, it’s just you and the paper. I believe in techniques, but I also believe in magic. Sometimes magic happens when you continue to show up.

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

I invite other teacher-bloggers to participate in this weekly meme, DigiLit Sunday. Link your posts up below.

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  Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Slide1

Magnolia, magnolia
Open
My one little word
finds me;
open your eyes
to your own heart;
listen
to what she loves.

I painted a magnolia
in cadmium blue and crimson red.
Do you see the red and blue?
To make good art,
first you must see.

I saw the perfect magnolia
hanging in my neighbor’s tree,
the one ravaged by a hurricane,
yet today,this tree sings
its magnolia hymn to heaven.

Now I see, magnolia to magnolia,
critical eye turned off,
yes, beauty, art.
Make this art.
Who cares about appreciation,
glorification, success (whatever that means),
just create.

I see magnolia to magnolia–happiness.
This is all I need.

–Margaret Simon, written at Acadiana Wordlab May 17, 2014

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Discover. Play. Build.

This was my last week with my students for this school year. I always get reflective at this time of year, wondering if I’ve done enough for my students. So yesterday, our last day together, I asked them to write me a letter. I asked 1. What do you remember about our school year? 2. What was your favorite activity? and 3. What was your greatest lesson? For the most part, I was touched by their letters. I just want to share a few quotes and celebrate them.

This year we got to meet Caroline Starr Rose and Greg Pincus! We went to Mississippi! We saw a haunted house! But most of all, we bonded like a family. That was my favorite activity. My greatest lesson is that you don’t have to be famous, or super smart, or handsome, or even popular to be loved. Matthew

My greatest lesson I’ve learned from being here is to not be afraid to make mistakes as a writer and in life. Mistakes will help you to become a better person. No one is perfect and sometimes all of us forget that. Brooklyn

My students finished their poetry projects. They made altered books out of discarded books. They illustrated and glued in their own poems and some favorite poems by other authors. Vannisa put in a collection of some her favorites from the school year, a bookmark from Margarita Engle, A bookmark from Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, an Eleanor Roosevelt quote, and “Keep Calm and Write Poetry.”

Vannisa's poetry book

Brooklyn's poetry book cover.  Gotta Love Poetry!

Brooklyn’s poetry book cover. Gotta Love Poetry!


Today, I am also celebrating magnolias. They are in full bloom, our state flower, and I went to a watercolor workshop this morning and painted one. I am posting a picture of a real one from my neighbor’s yard and the one I painted. Wish I could also post the scent.

Watercolor magnolia by Margaret Simon.

Watercolor magnolia by Margaret Simon.

Magnolia, the Louisiana state flower.

Magnolia, the Louisiana state flower.

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