National Writing Project

Last week I finished a fellowship with the amazing, intense, life-changing San Diego Area Writing Project, part of the National Writing Project. Twenty teachers gathered for 3 1/2 weeks to study what works across the curriculum and across age-groups to teach people to write effectively. Topics ranged from blogging to sentence construction to using mentor texts, to creating a supportive environment for Writers Response Groups, to using graphic novels to spur writing in the classroom. It was very exciting.

One of the most amazing aspects of the training was meeting colleagues who work with all ages and in all settings, and finding so much in common, and such open hearts and minds. In our own writing response groups, we shared things we wrote, and received thoughtful feedback. Here is a poem I wrote to introduce the demonstration lesson of my colleague, Graciela, an amazing dual immersion Spanish-English teacher.


When you tell my story,

Tell them I am Graciela,

Graceful, grateful, blessings embodied

In dancing light and sun,

The ocean breeze blowing

In the clear, pure window

Of my soul.


Say that I am fully immersed

In my dual-immersion life,

Bouncing between worlds

For as long as I have lived –

Ventura – Jalisco – Brentwood


My name changing with each move –

Graciela – Grace — Graciela —

Until the lovely lilt of two languages

Lives on my tongue

Like the sweet taste

Of citrus.


Write that I am Chela

Cholula-Girl, Cuevita,

Cheeky cha-cha dancer,

Watcher of chick-flicks,

Snappy snowboarder soaring – and falling –

And picking myself up again –

And again,

A runner on the move,

Never giving up and always

Ready to try

Something new.







Say that I adore my daughters

So much it makes me weep,

My kind, creative wonders.

Tell them that Piglet lives in my mind —

That small warrior of worries —

But Yogananda, Gandhi and

Martin Luther King push my soul

To stand up tall, to live

And let live, To love, and let go.


When you write my story,

Tell them I am a fierce mama

To hundreds of students

Whose lives and learning

I have held in my arms.

Tell them my hands

Are like scales balancing

The needs of every child

To make sure no one

Is left out and all

Are equal. Tell them

I know how it feels

To be in their shoes –

Whether shiny or rough,

Too tight or just right.


When you sing my story,

Make the melody the sound

Of my daughters’ voices,

When you dance my story,

Let them know my hands swirl like swallows,

swooping and looping

Calligraphy in the air,

When you whisper my story

Make it a prayer

For all the world.

When you write my story,

Tell them my heart is as open

As the windows of my home,

That I live in Thanksgiving,

My eyes smiling in beauty,

Wonder and grace.





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