We all navigate paths to intended life goals. Feet often clearly embedded in the first steps, and often seeing a bit of fog down the road ahead. Sometimes the road bends and we reel from the turn. Other times, Frost’s fork in the road appears and we contemplate. Other times, the road is straight, though perhaps narrow. No matter the age, we all take journeys. The “journey” is a great invitation to a writing piece for middle graders (or you!). A major journey for me was the decision to undertake the grueling PhD program. What began as hope ended as a greater understanding of Self. The journey made me a better person. Journeys that challenge us tend to do this. Here are some quick thoughts on my journey to the PhD. I encourage you to take on the concept of “journey” writing with your students!
So many memories stirred as I think back on starting (and continuing along) the path to the PhD. Initial feelings of panic [what am I doing here with all these smart folks?] slowly morphing into mentally “joining the club,” knowing you belong on your chosen path, and feelings of actually enjoying the workload. Am I qualified to do this? Can I balance it with the rest of my crazy life? I was a classroom teacher for 21 years when I began my doctoral studies. 50 years young. My sixteen year old granddaughter was two years old when I began writing my dissertation. I hesitated (reflected might be the better word) for several years before I took the plunge and applied to the doctoral program. Perhaps because I was “old,” I relished in the coursework. Having worked as a middle school teacher for two decades, along with active memberships in professional teacher organizations, I felt comfortably informed and knew my focus. My activity in the National Writing Project naturally led me to know that my dissertation would focus on writing instruction. My kids were out of the house, and my husband my strongest supporter. I thrived on the challenges. The timing, as it turned out, could not have been more perfect. When coursework ended I experienced withdrawal. I missed the intensity of banter and discussion with fellow doctoral students. Withdrawal soon faded with the writing of my dissertation. My dissertation defense was much more of a thrill than actually being hooded. I knew, loved, and had a passion for my topic, and this was possible due to my years spent in the field, more journeys!, gathering experiences that would play a huge part in my doctoral work. My capacities, unknown to me at the start of my journey, astounded me. My journey was a maze of possibilities, all of which led me on a path to self-discovery that continues today. No matter the journey, or the traveler, we share common experiences along our individual paths.
The Writer’s Desk
Author Ralph Fletcher’s blog, The Writer’s Desk. His skinny little book, Breathing In, Breathing Out, remains an inspiration to me. His writing style is simple and direct and kids can relate well to him, as he does not leave them in the language jungle trying desperately to find their way out. He connects. This blog, appropriately named, opens windows into his writing life. Each day or so he provides snippets of his thinking about writing, pieces of his notebooks, tips for writers of all ages, and more. Check him out!