Could This One Habit Be What You’re Missing?

Could This One Habit Be What You’re Missing?

Since really facing my depression, I realized I wasn't showing much gratitude for my life. It was an easy trap to fall in to. I stopped being thankful for the small things, and the big things followed right along.

I've recently started making a gratitude list at the end of the day. It's a simple reminder to slow down and take stock of the things I'm grateful for each day. 

I'm trying to make some new habits to help me appreciate life. Making a gratitude list is one of them. And you know what? It's helping. Really. Gratitude has been a missing key to contentment. 

Here's how I'm doing it:

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The Deliberate Rise of Stephen King →

Cal Newport on King:

King was careful to always aim above, but just barely above, his current skill level. His first published story was in a fanzine — the 1960′s version of a blog. He moved from fanzines to second-tier mens magazines like Cavalier andDude. After he cracked that market he moved on to top-tier mens magazines and top-tier fantasy and science fiction publications. Only once he could consistently hit those targets did he succeed in selling his first novel to Doubleday.

Good stuff about honest feedback and how to stretch yourself. This is exactly what I hope to do for my writing students.

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How Many Minutes

How Many Minutes

School is a numbers game, but not the kind many legislators and test publishers want. It’s less about graph-able data points on a spreadsheet and more about minutes on the clock.

How many minutes do our students read each day? Reading software doesn’t count. Reading related activities don’t count. Reading worksheets don’t count. Just reading.

How many minutes do our students write each day? Spelling lessons don’t count. Typing websites don’t count. Fill-in-the-blank worksheets don’t count either. Just writing. Really writing.

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The Best Case Scenario

The best case scenario is not that everyone passes the test. It’s that everyone learns what they need to learn.

After almost eight years in a classroom, I’m convinced that these two can be very different things.

I can help kids understand the craft of writing, or I can help them figure out how to do better on a multiple choice writing test. I’m not sure I can do both simultaneously. But with time constraints and pressure looming, I’m going to have to find a way.

I wonder if the company who makes the test can send sell me some materials to help my students pass?

These words from a teammate’s email sum it up nicely:

I cringe and struggle with what I know is best, and what I know is expected.

What a serious conundrum.

My Big Fat Secret For Teaching Writing

“Don’t know what you are doing, but my daughter went from not liking writing to it being her favorite subject this year!”

A parent left this comment on my class Facebook page last week. I shared it the other day on Twitter. It’s important to share victories and successes. It gives me confidence and encouragement to move forward when I read about others doing well.

I got several replies filled with encouragement and good cheer. A few Twitter peeps wanted to know what my secret is. I sort of half-heartedly answered a few and moved on with my day. But, it got me thinking. Do I really do have some sort of secret for teaching writing?

So I thought for bit, and I came back to my original half-hearted response. Only it didn’t seem so half-hearted anymore. Do you want to know my big, fat secret for teaching kids to write better? My secret is…

I just really love it. In a word, passion.

It sounds simple, and I guess it is. But it’s also true. I just really, really love teaching kids to write better.

I’m drawn to stories and words. I relish the opportunities to write. I love the craft of it; the creativity that drives it. It’s an escape. It’s more than an escape. It’s an escape that you get to create in any way you want.

Writing is therapy. Writing is a release. Writing is a way to cope and a way to make sense of our world.

I try to share that passion with my young writers each day. Whether we are writing in our journals, blogging, or doing some sort of creative writing, I give them as much enthusiasm as I can muster.

I wish I had 7 Keys to Make Kids LOVE Writing! or 10 Easy Steps to Be An AWESOME Writing Teacher! to share. But I don’t. It’s just me. A tall guy with a fuzzy beard, thick glasses and a heart for kids.

I simply let my passion for writing spill all over the place and hope my students get soaked.

On Appreciations, Writing, and Scratchy Noises


Appreciation is a deeply powerful word to me. Appreciate is the mature Dr. Pepper to thank you’s bland Mr. Pibb. No, restaurant waiter guy, Mr. Pibb is not okay.

Teachers are being appreciated all over the country this week. It’s a fun time to be a teacher. I got a few packs of gum, some pens for the class, gift cards to Half Price Books, and more Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups than I know what to do with. Like I said, it’s a fun time and it's nice to get some thank yous.

However, the things that truly make me feel appreciated don’t come in orange and yellow wrappers. They are the notes and cards that students write to me. The Reese's are gone in a few days, but these words stay with me forever.

Here’s one of my favorites:

Mr.Stortz has been teaching us about this technique called the clicking noise, or the scratchy noise if you are writing on paper. The technique implies just to start going. Start pressing keys and just get into your work. This was a very helpful technique for me because I use to just sit there thinking about what I was going to say word for word in my head, but never writing it. My brain would say “That’s Stupid.” or “That doesn’t make sense.” But he has taught us to not listen to that voice. Just put your pen on the paper or your fingers on the keys and let the words flow out.

Mr.Stortz to me is more than just a writing teacher. He is my friend, someone I can trust, someone I can believe, and that is really important to me. The reason is I get in trouble a lot. So I need a teacher that can put those troubles aside and worry about school and not how I got sent to the principal’s office. I appreciate that he wants the best for me and pushes me to do my best, and has taught me that when I do my best it all pays off.

I was so happy to figure out that Mr.Stortz was my teacher. And then I figured out what I was really getting. Not only a teacher who teaches to the art of language, but one who teaches life skills. It is very uncommon to get a teacher who teaches both sides of life. And I am truly blessed to have a teacher like Mr.Stortz. If you have a teacher like Mr.Stortz, then you know what I’m feeling. I am extremely thankful for him. And I bet you are thankful if you have been blessed with such a teacher like me.

Tears welled up in my eyes as I read this. Appreciation. This will keep me going for a long time.