Monday, July 6, 2015

Teachers Write and Old Orchard Beach, ME

Good Morning! 
I am so excited to be joining Teachers Write for the first time! I am a K-5 Literacy Instructional Coach in CT. For the 2015-2016 school year, I am going to be focusing on supporting teachers in writing. Writing seems like a black abyss people are so reluctant to learn more about. Writing is scary! 
I wonder, how can I get teachers excited about teaching writing? I wonder, how can the teachers and I get kids excited about writing? I wonder, as teachers, are we too constraining with our students by assigning topics? I remember as a child be so excited to free write in class. I feel like I don’t see that happening in classrooms as much and that makes me sad. 
So, I have been wondering, how can I become better as a writing teacher? As I thought about this question, I realized what a better way than actually get back into writing myself. I took creative writing classes in college and would also constantly journal. But as life happens, writing fell off the radar for me. I dabbled in blogging, but haven’t written since January. Ack!! I miss writing!
I had an epiphany yesterday:

Standing on the beach yesterday in Maine, I couldn’t help but think about how important Old Orchard Beach is to me. I grew up on this beach. OOB represents so much more to me than just a vacation spot. 
We started coming to Old Orchard Beach in 1989. My father had just been diagnosed with severe OCD and anxiety and was spending time at Yale New Haven Hospital. My mom had always wanted to go to Maine, so she embraced this opportunity and took myself, and my younger sister and brother, to what we deemed the "best place on earth!" Even more excited, our cousins were coming too! 
That first week in Maine was pure magic. My family never left the beach except to go to the Palace Playland Amusement Park, and eat. We learned to body surf, play paddle ball, build drizzle sandcastles, and catch hermit crabs. It was also a time that we were allowed to forget the chaos of home. My mom was so happy during such a stressful time in our lives. But our mom was the rock that got us through and showed us how to have fun and embrace life. 
Every year after, my family would make the trek up to OOB. We'd make plans of where we would have our first Maine dinner, when we would first go to Funtown, and even, how long we would stay at the beach. We made PLANS!! We screamed when we ran to the beach and our bodies fell into the sand. Ironically, after each vacation we would say, "Ok. Let's find some place else to vacation. We are so over OOB." But that never happened! OOB had it all. 
The fist time my husband and I brought our first born to Maine, I cried as we pulled in past Ocean Park. (Granted I was pregnant with our second and it could have been hormones crying!). He looked at me like I was crazy. All I said was, " I have dreamed of this day for as long as I can remember. I always wanted to bring my kids here. Maine is just my home away from home." The crying continued this vacation, as Drew walked on the beach and he went on rides that I had gone on as a kid. Dave kept saying, " Oh boy, Here we go again!" But he would hug me and say, " It's going to be ok!" 
As we were packing up yesterday, after Drew and i spent the morning on the beach and Dave and Nolan spent the morning at the pool, Drew turned to me and said, " I am going to miss Maine. I love Maine. Can we come back?" 
I took his hand, and said, " Of course we can! We will be here for the 4th of July every year after this!" My heart soared with happiness. (And I am getting tears in my eyes now as I write this just thinking about this moment with Drew.) Nothing in the world makes me happier to know I have passed down a tradition to my boys.

And now I wonder, are there places that kids feel the same way about a particular place? If I can have such an emotional reaction being back on the beach with my two boys- the beach that we have been coming to for 26 years, there has to be places kids connect to and want to write about! How can we as teachers capitalize on our students small moments and acknowledge how important those moments are- even if it is "just" going on a roller coaster for the first time, or eating shrimp for the first time. We as teachers, even if we don't think those moments or places are important, have to remember they are important to the little people sitting in front of us. It is up to us to encourage them to write more and get to the heart of their story. 

I know I have written a lot, and I am thrilled I have found a place with Teachers Write to take risks as a writer to not only benefit myself, but for my teachers and students as well.  And look at that, I have finally blogged! I guess I have something important to share! Looking forward to this journey!!
Thank you for reading!


  1. I'm glad Maine has a tug on your heartstrings! I LOVE this place. Looking forward to learning along with you during Teachers Write camp. Here's to taking risks!

  2. How wonderful that your first bit of writing in a while is about such a special place for you and your family! Loved reading this!

  3. Hi Kara,
    I'm in the process of setting up a blog for TW 2015. Do you mind if I glean some ideas and tech advice from you and your blog?

  4. Somehow my first post, before 5:51 PM, did not show up. I first intended to thank you for a wonderful post that I found inspiring! Cheers to taking risks with writing!
    Have a great evening!

  5. I really enjoyed your wonders, and your story. I also wonder how to get many colleagues more interested in writing (and reading). I model writing with my kids daily, and it has been the difference, that makes all the difference.
    Can't wait to see what else you have in store for us!

  6. Writing from place can be so evocative. Your piece brought up many warm and fuzzy feelings as I related to the joy of being in a favorite vacation spot. I had some student writers this year who were able to evoke strong emotion and sense of place by starting with place. I think your wonder about student writing is right on. Thank you for sharing!