My Writing Journey

This is my story. My purpose in sharing it with you is to encourage you to think of yourself as a writer so you can share your ideas with others. Teachers often ask me why I decided to write and publish books. As I reflect back I see that each book has its own story and reason for emerging. I never thought of myself as a writer and never imagined it as a goal. In fact, I wasn’t even sure I liked writing and sharing my ideas with other people.

My journey as a writer began when I was ten years old. My family decided to take a trip to Florida to visit my grandparents and it would take me out of school for two weeks. One week was school vacation and the other week was required school time. I was in the 4th grade and my teacher’s name was Mrs. Orr. I can still see her standing in the front of the room saying, Carol, instead of giving you work to complete, I am going to have you keep a diary of your trip. Write each day what you did and when you get back it will be printed in our class newsletter for all the students to read.

Well, you can imagine my reaction. I would rather do the homework than write the events of my trip for my classmates. Several years ago when cleaning out my mother’s home, I found that copy of the class newspaper. At the top of the article I saw my name and the events of my trip. It brought back memories of how I struggled with what to say, and it also brought back a sense of pride to see my written words.

When I became a teacher I did the typical writing of lesson plans, units, and notes to parents. Teachers are always writing. We mostly write for our students, their parents, or for administrative reports. We don’t often have the opportunity to write our perspective. Our writing purpose is usually for others. My first real writing opportunity came when a state grant was offered for teachers to create a project that would serve students or teachers. In education we don’t often get funding to create something we think is important, so I jumped at the chance to propose an idea. I had just finished hosting a student teacher and had lots of notes about what I had done with her. I was thinking, “What’s missing?”  and the idea came to me to write a guide for cooperating teachers who are hosting student teachers.

Cooperating teachers welcome beginners into their classrooms, but often don’t have the protocols or skills to observe and provide feedback to them. I decided to write a handbook and I titled it, “So You’re Going to Be a Cooperating Teacher: A Guide for Classroom Teachers.”  The purpose of the guide was to create a common language for cooperating teachers in our school district so they would know how to prepare and support a student teacher. The proposal was funded. I wrote it, copied it, and distributed it widely. Teachers responded positively and this was the beginning of my journey as a writer of education books. It also shifted my love of teaching students, to a love of supporting new teachers.

I shared one of my copies with an editor from Allyn & Bacon; Simon & Schuster (Now Pearson Education) and it led to the publication of my very first book, Techniques and Strategies for Coaching Student Teachers. As I look back I remember writing this book quickly and easily. I had the original copied cooperating teacher guide as a model and I wanted this to be a practical and useful tool for classroom teachers. It just flowed! I felt a sense of urgency to get the message to them and I was inspired.

About the same time, I decided to apply to a doctoral program and focus my studies on teacher development. This led to my work in higher education in the practicum office at a city university where my new book would be used! This was so exciting. Cooperating teachers didn’t usually have a book so I felt we were offering them something tangible beyond the college handbook. I knew this would benefit the student teachers I placed with them.

During my time at the university I was invited to write a 2nd edition for Techniques and Strategies for Coaching Student Teachers (Pearson) and a new book to be its companion, Strategies for Successful Student Teacher (Pearson). These books would both be used to benefit the education program and provide a structure and common language for both the cooperating teacher and the student teacher. Now the student teachers could guide their own development. Strategies for Successful Student Teaching is still in print, but the Techniques book for the cooperating teacher is not. I am happy to say that I will be taking the content from the cooperating teacher book and creating a free on-line course that I will share with universities and schools through my website. I still believe cooperating teachers are crucial to the development of teachers.

Both of these books had a purpose and could be used in the work I was doing. I tend to write for a reason. I continue to ask “What’s Missing?” and then I reflect on what I could contribute to this gap. So when I was also invited to collaborate on an education text Touch the Future Teach! (Pearson), I wasn’t sure if this was the project for me. It was a book that would be used in education courses but there were already books out there to do that. To be honest I wasn’t sure this was the right fit for me, but I convinced myself I could do it. So instead of trusting my gut, and sticking with my no answer, I experienced the downside of the writer’s journey. Having to write!!!! It didn’t flow like the others. Deadlines. Forced topics that I did not generate. Different perspectives. I did love and appreciate the chapters I contributed, but all in all, it was a painful and long process. So my learning from this is, just write what feels right! You don’t have to say yes to every writing request!

This fortunately did not end my writing journey. Instead it focused me back to my own personal question, What’s Missing? And the answer that came to me was a book for mentors who are working with the graduates of our program. Those very same cooperating teachers who needed guidance during the practicum, now are becoming mentors for the student teachers who are hired by their district. These teachers were asking the same questions, What do I do? What do I talk about? How do I mentor? And that is when I proposed, Mentoring in Action: A month-by-month guide for mentors and their new teachers (Pearson).  It was published and used in our city program and across the country.

After the writing of this book, I changed jobs to be closer to home and my work shifted to working with two k-12 school districts. After meeting with the mentors who were using by mentoring book, they suggested I write a companion book for the novice teacher. Since I had done a student teacher book I felt I could do this and I wrote, The First Year Matters (Pearson). The purpose of this book was to allow the novice teachers to be full partners in the mentoring process. The mentor and the mentee would have the same content, only written in a different voice, so they could communicate more efficiently. The books worked well together and provided the novices with practical protocols and reflections to help them develop their practices. to provide these beginners with additional support. These mentoring companion books led me to an opportunity to collaborate with the State Department of Education to develop a state-wide hybrid mentor train the trainer program.

When this project was completed I decided to formally retire from the university, thinking my writing journey was over. That is when a group of dedicated teachers and colleagues approached me to continue to offer the mentor training I had previously offered through the state. I began writing and developing content for on-line courses. Writing continues in new ways, scripts for videos, ideas for courses, journal prompts and guides.

At about the same time I was leaving the university I enrolled in a yoga teacher training program. The integration of the yoga perspective and my teaching career merged and what I learned in yoga training was merged into my newly created business Mentoring in Action! This writing and all the videos from Project SUCCESS and TEACH! South Coast are available for free on my website

Formal retirement gave me time to consider revising the two mentoring books I had written for Pearson. With my new mindfulness lens and the videos I had produced, I knew I could create a more updated mentoring curriculum. I requested and received my copyrights back from Pearson and signed a contract with Corwin. I am pleased to say that the 2nd editions for both Mentoring in Action: Guiding, Sharing, and Reflecting With Novice Teachers (Corwin 2017) and The First Years Matter: Becoming an Effective Teacher (Corwin 2017) are bestsellers!

So I thought I was done, but as I listened to novice teachers and their mentors, they  shared so much about the stress of teaching that I decided to write about mindfulness and self-care. I began to offer self-care workshops at yoga studios and also at teacher leadership and mentoring conferences. These sessions led me to self-publishing two books on Amazon; Mindful Living: Art and Affirmations to Nourish Your Soul, and Mindful Mentoring: A Guide For Mentors and Mentees. Other professions, medical, church groups, youth mentoring, university college students, and others are using the books because they are not content based for educators.

Most recently I completed the On Your Feet Guide to Mentoring Conversations (2020) a hands on document that highlights key features of the mentoring book. This quick and easy reference was fun to write because it had me look at what is most important to me in mentoring and bring it forth in a clear and concise way.

And now here I am with my latest book, Teaching With Light: Ten Lessons for Finding Wisdom, Balance, and Inspiration (Corwin, 2021). This book is a culmination of all I have learned along the education path. My stories from the beginning of my career, the authors who inspired me, and the practices I have used to maintain my balance are all here. So I guess you could say that my writing journey has been successful when I responded to my inner question of What’s Missing? And how can I write something to fill that need? Instead of writing what someone else wanted me to write.

I did not map this journey out. In some ways it came to me.  If anyone ever said to me in those beginning years of teaching that I would be a published author leading my own company, I would never have believed it! Yet, here I am. As I review my career I acknowledge that writing has been instrumental to the way in which I communicate with others. It all began in 4th grade when I had to write that diary that would be read by others. I encourage you to find your writing bone and see what you have to say. It may be a blog, a video, or a guide for your colleagues. Be creative and open to the answers that come to you. I believe teachers are leaders. We can lead from the classroom or in education related professions. Part of being a leader is sharing what we know. Reflect on your relationship with writing. Think about “What’s missing?” and how you can fill that gap with your expertise and knowledge. Begin your writing journey.