All posts by Tobey Martinez

Tobey's Thesis Thoughts 2016-02-10 21:49:00

The Best Free Write Ever Assigned!!

So Dr. Zamora says when I write this week think about my goals for when I finish my thesis. Then she suggests to get dreamy. What would I do If I really could?  No holds barred. What a fun assignment! So I was thinking in terms of personally and professionally. 

Personally, I would love to continue to work on myself as a writer. I have really enjoyed experimenting with creative nonfiction writing. Exploring my past and my childhood years through writing is not only nostalgic but has been fruitful. My brother in all his wisdom, told me that no one is really going to want to read about someone they didn't know, so I should put my writing to good use and find interesting and somewhat popular people in NJ to interview and tell tales of their childhoods. He sounds pretty insensitive,  but he's just my brother. Many people get started as unknowns. Now I don't know if I'd write for publishing or just for me, but since I'm dreaming here...

My family has also time and again discussed how someone must capture the cornucopia that is my father's life. My dad has been a story teller since I was a little girl. I heard stories of his days growing up "down neck." Stories that felt as though my dad and his brother ran a gang of kids like in the Little Rascals or like the kids in the movies A Bronx Tale or Sleepers. As I got older, we sat around the kitchen table mesmerized by tales of his time in the Air Force during the Korean War or his strange but true encounters with famous people including Elvis Presley. Stories highlighting hysterical rendezvous with the many female companions he boasts about are some of my favorites. Therefore, dream number two or maybe it's number one: I'd love to write my dad's biography, or several memoirs. We even have a title picked out: Down Neck: Tales from my Father. I think my fear is that I couldn't do it justice. He is truly, truly an amazing storyteller. I fear my words would fall flat.

And to get super dreamy here, my utopia: an empty beach all mine, my dogs, the sun, good food and drink, quiet, writing poetry. Poetry from my past, present, and future.

Professionally, I'd like to create units that are not based solely on the Common Core State Standards. My kids no longer write poetry because it is not supported by CCSS. We had a fun poetry unit in 7th grade that has been dismantled. The kids loved this unit.  Ignoring CC and creating  a unit that inspires my students on a different level would be great. Many of them are never exposed to poetry and if they are it's not until they are in high school and take a creative writing course. Hey...maybe what we need is an elective creative writing course for middle school. Put all of the ripped up and disassembled units destroyed by CC back together agin, but in a much cooler way. Integrating collaborative work and multi-modal takes on assignments.

Teaching adults??? I go back and forth with it. I like that I will have the degree to fall back on if I ever needed it. I know that when I started my first year of grad school, that was my ultimate goal, but I'm not sure that it is any more. There are days when I think about how nice it would be to have a room full of adults instead of whiny kids who didn't do their homework. I think as long as I feel happy in my position and my hubby is not ready to pack up and move to Asheville, I'll probably stay put. Linwood Middle School is in sense a home to me. I know I'm not staying there until our new retirement age of 60! Adults could seem nice by then. How about a nice adjunct position teaching creative writing to a classroom full of eager adults. It does have a nice ring.

Finally I think of The Rainbow Academy in Asheville. My sister and I stumbled upon this school's site when we were playing around and looking for teaching jobs for me. We didn't really scope it out seriously, but it opened my eyes to the fact that the area of Asheville is abundant with these "alternative" type schools. I told my sis that if hired by Rainbow Academy, I was going to take my sixth grade class out kayaking on The French Broad River. We would stop about half way and journal for awhile, sparking ideas for a creative writing piece that we would develop later in the classroom. Ahhh. That sounds wonderful!

It's so nice to dream...

Tobey's Thesis Thoughts 2016-01-31 21:26:00

Freewrite Take Two

This one is a little harder getting started on. Writing about my career, about what I love about it is so easy to address. It is such a part of me, and a proud part. But this topic, this is hard. This is new. This is unclear. Writing to Heal. It is a therapeutic practice. It is something I know is done, there are studies about how it has helped women of domestic abuse, veterans, cancer patients, and so on. There are support groups and therapists who use it as a best practice. But it only became important to me, when it happened to me. When I allowed myself to create work that mattered and that opened me up to look inside of myself and say, "Hey, it's time...Write..." 

The question for me is why were those writing moments safe for me? Why did I feel that I could write about difficulties in my life that I hardly spoke about or shared with anyone at those moments? And not only that, but then after sharing it with these new people in my life, I could have kept the pieces hidden and put them away, but I went on to share them with my therapist. The writing became a catalyst to conversation and propelled my healing forward. 

I remember thinking about all the suppressed thoughts I was carrying about my mom and all of these words that I associated with her passing. Knowing that I had this opportunity to put it to paper and then do nothing with it if I chose, felt safe. So I did.  It was like a release. I wanted more of that feeling and thought that by taking the next step and sharing my writing I could have more of that freeing feeling. I was right. 

Ok, so this is also important and very personal to me. But I'm not a psych major and I don't want to take the approach of one. Just doing a quick peek at what's out there in the world of studies, there are a lot. So, how do I take a fresh approach to this topic through the viewpoint of a writing study? Can I focus on myself? Perhaps continue to write pieces that focus on the topics I work on in therapy and maybe analyze my process of healing as I do so? That could be one way to marry the psych and writing worlds together. Maybe something worth talking about...

Tobey's Thesis Thoughts 2016-01-31 20:22:00

Trying to Gain a Focus Freewrite

What makes me happy when I teach writing to my students? This is a loaded question because there are so many answers! I can think of very specific moments with very specific students, but when I think of bigger-over all-hey my kids got it-moments-or I love teaching this to my students moments-there are a lot! Perhaps a list will be best.

I am really happy when:

  • powerful, important, and meaningful topics are selected for their writing pieces
  • a personal writing goal is mastered by any student 
  • meaningful revision work takes place and they understand that it is improving their work
  • a one on one conference goes well
  • I can use my own writing as mentor texts 
  • they say they loved a unit or a particular writing piece they created
  • their writing is transformative in some way on a personal level
  • a strategy group succeeds 
  • an advanced student challenges himself outside of his comfort zone
  • I find the perfect mentor texts
  • they use their Writer's Notebooks well 
  • I feel like I taught a lesson well
A few proud moments this year:
  • Ian hugged his writing portfolio because he was so proud of the work he had done
  • Karina captured the heartbreak of missing her dad a few years after he died through the use of symbolism in her piece
  • Realizing that half of my second block didn't know when to indent, and three strategy groups later, most of them were using paragraphs!!!
  • Seeing "author's crafts" being used regularly in most of their writing pieces.
  • Persuasive topics about gun control, marriage equality, Seaworld's treatment of the orcas, animal abuse, benefits to organic eating, sexism, and so on...
  • Jayden, "My revisions have revisions!"
  • Shannon, "I am no longer allergic to revising my work."
  • Rosemary, "Ms. Martinez, please finish writing your turtle story. It would make the best mentor text."
  • Diksha, "Ms. Martinez, you are the best mentor we have."
  • Fighting for the author's chair!
  • A successful conference with Ryan about authentic dialogue.
I can keep adding to both lists. There have been so many proud moments and so many reasons why I love teaching my kids writing. I don't know if having so many thoughts is a good thing for narrowing down a thesis idea, but it's good that I still love my career choice.

Tobey's Thesis Thoughts 2016-01-25 23:01:00

The Beginning

Tobey's Tentative Thesis Schedule

The Start of My Thesis Journey...

My head has been kind of spinning since our first meeting last Thursday.

Before I met with everyone on Thursday, I felt like I at least had a broad idea of my topic. I was going to focus on the process of revision in writing. As a writing teacher, I know the struggle of teaching how to revise to middle schoolers. As a writer, I know the value and importance of engaging in the process of revision to strengthen my own work. I know some of the theorists who have explored this topic. I even quoted Nancy Sommers in my PLC meeting at work recently. I find value in doing more research on revision as I know there is not a lot out there. I even had some thoughts about where I might further explore this topic: recursive vs. linear, methods taught in schools, the college writer and revision...Ok, not overtly specific, but there were some ideas rolling around in that part of my brain now devoted to thesis work.

Then, we met. I listened in on the conferences and ideas that are happening and taking shape by my fellow peers, and new ideas came into my head. I realized that I didn't have to create my thesis one way, there were options. With those options came a refreshing look at what I  might want to do. Revision is  an important topic, but am I passionate about it? I have to admit that I went with it because I felt it would fit nicely into the structure I thought the thesis had to take. But now, I know differently.

Graduate school is personally challenging for each person who thrusts himself into it. For me it was not an easy decision to come back to school at almost forty years old. I had so much self doubt. Could I keep up? Could I handle the technology? Would I be able to manage my time well? Am I intelligent enough to do the work? The self doubt almost won, but I talked myself into it. I knew that I had to make some changes in my life. Now that I am starting this last process of the program, I can't tell you how much I have grown since I began.  The most surprising area where I felt change happened is in my emotional world. It is reflecting upon this area of personal growth from which I think my thesis should grow.

I tell my students often that writing can be cathartic, but it wasn't until I began to allow myself to write about my own difficult life moments that I realized how cathartic it actually can be. When I sit and look back at the writing pieces I wrote in my classes, I can't believe that I was so free. That I allowed myself to write about issues that I often avoid talking about, that I have pushed away. Why did having the freedom to write about anything I wanted produce these kinds of pieces? I'm very open about the fact that I have been seeing a therapist for the past twelve years. I went to her about a year after my mom died and I started to develop some heavy anxiety issues. However, even there we talk more about my avoidance to address things then actually confronting them.

When given the opportunity to write about anything I wanted, I chose hard-avoided-topics. In my Writing About Non-Fiction class, I created two pieces; the first about the death of my boyfriend when I was nineteen and the abusive relationship we had before he died, the second about a symbolic keepsake in my family and finding pictures of my mom after she died and being able to add those pictures to this keepsake. In my Writing for Children and Young Adult class, I create a thirty page draft of a ya story about a young girl taken over by anxiety-pulled from my own life. Finally, I created two poems directly about my mother's death during my time at The Summer Institute.

After creating the last two poems and sharing them, especially with my therapist, doors to healing opened up for me. I have been able to talk about some of the more difficult things surrounding my mom's death easier and my own anxiety has become lessened. I still have quite a ways to go, but writing about it has been the greatest therapy of my life. after all of this rambling, I come to my point, one of my lessons through my grad school journey is that writing holds powers of healing. Can I create some sort of thesis from this? I don't know.  There are studies out there about journaling and creative expression helping people of all sorts. I worry about what new spin I can take on this topic. Could I focus on my own journey?  I also know that much of the research will come from  psychology texts. I'm not a psych major. Will this be a difficulty for me? Many questions.

So an idea has taken shape, but what to do with this idea...