You can write a slice for the Two Writing Teachers community today. It's always good to read what everyone shares. Thank you Stacey, Tara, Anna, Betsy, Dana, Kathleen, Beth, and Deb.
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Instead of bookmarking, I often use the "reading list" feature on Safari, and these past few days I've been reading an article or two to catch up what I thought, sometimes weeks ago, I was interested in reading. I've recently read an article from Orion Magazine by a man who has taught writing to prisoners in Arizona for forty years. You can find it here. In it, he has brought several points of importance to all of us, including our students. Yes, I think I will always think of teaching and students no matter how many years out of the classroom. One part he shared included words of Charles Dickens, from a book titled American Notes, and including some of the time he visited American prisons. In that time, prisoners were kept isolated from every contact with humans, even the guards. Dickens wrote: “It is my ﬁxed opinion that those who have undergone this punishment must pass into society again mortally unhealthy and diseased.” The author notes that Dickens suggests there is a connection between humans and a natural environment, and deprivation of that is permanently damaging. The author moves on to today's current prison architecture which, he has found throughout his work, that there is no place for prisoners to experience even a blade of grass or a tree. They only might notice a pigeon flying by through the small slits/windows in their cells. I do not propose that I know very much about a prison's impact on the inmates after reading only one article. However, I do know the positive impact on learning that being outside while playing, exploring, and observing has/had on my students, has on my grandchildren, and has on me.
Those of you who are on Facebook (I keep forgetting about Instagram) know that I post lots of pictures from being outside, morning and afternoon walks, even noticing something wonderful from a car window. And often I want to "show" someone, or return home to capture it in writing or sketching. I remember many times taking my class outside to write, or to sketch something. I asked them what surprised, what looks like something else, how does the light change as it moves over the campus? When I did, they seemed both happy, focused and relaxed. So I wonder, how much time do you all spend outside, yourself or with your students if you teach? I know a few who post beautiful pictures from walks you take. Do you believe it matters? It may be just as good an exercise on a treadmill.
When I'm tired, I find that it refreshes me to be outside. I walk around the block, find some small task to do, even on snowy ground. Today, as I was driving Ingrid home from her short visit after school, we drive down one street whose trees are so large, they hang over the street, towards each other. This time, at a stoplight, we could see that the trees looked like people, reaching, leaning toward each other. It was a time of delight, and of wonder, imagining the trees talking, maybe having a good laugh together. We were not exactly being "outside", but we were connecting with nature.
In the article spoken of above, the author speaks of a "psychic death" from years of sensory deprivation. He asks his incarcerated students, “How long has it been since you have seen or smelled a ﬂower?” And he writes: "Unless they are too far advanced in the process called “psychic death,” they can usually remember not only what kind of ﬂower it was and where it was they saw it but what it smelled like." And further, he shares: "Perhaps this explains the many references to clouds in the work of these inmates. It has been years since some old-timers saw a tree, and they may never see one again."
I read lots of nature journals, and love the way each writer glories in their surroundings, am envious sometimes of the time they have in certain places. But I know that it's important that I walk in the out of doors, feeling the sun, or looking at clouds, noticing the varied bark on the trees, the shadows on the walks. I return home feeling good. I hope you do, too!
|rabbit tracks spied out walking this week|