Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Why Clay?

I wonder what the "stats" are on aTi participants who are "repeat offenders." My first experience with aTi was during the summer of 2012. It was an unforgettable experience and, much like the planning that goes into the Macy's Thanksgiving parade, after day one I was already contemplating what workshops I would take in the following year.

My 2012 workshops took place at Stockton College with poet Peter Murphy. Being away from the hustle and bustle of life at home was refreshing, as I could focus on my craft of writing.  I went through the full gamut of emotions during my aTi week at Stockton.  I experienced the frustration of sitting in front of a notebook page and writing a mere five or six words within 30 minutes. I experienced the process of revision in which a short poem could be condensed even more than I could believe. Some of my poems went through five or six drafts, which was an experience I had never previously had. Mornings were spent creating and discussing prompts. In the late morning, Peter would "release" our group and allow us to walk around campus for inspiration and solitude. Our afternoons were spent by reading our drafts aloud and commenting. After each day, I felt extremely tired because I had truly worked. Each day was a fulfilling experience, but each day was also an experience that required constant focus.

When I was choosing an aTi workshop for this year, poetry crossed my mind again. Poetry, however, is familiar to me. I would never classify poetry as "easy," but it is definitely manageable and makes me feel comfortable.

I wanted to step out of my comfort zone.

My only prior experiences with pottery are superficial ones. I used to go to "ceramics" when I was in middle school. We would paint bisque pieces and Lil, who ran the ceramics shop, would immediately take over and complete the challenging parts of your piece. I also have gone to places like Color Me Mine where you paint pieces made from molds and the employees do the "dirty work" of firing the pieces in the kiln.

At the beginning of each school year, words such as speculative, persuasive, narrative, expository, and argumentative roll off my tongue. Often, my incoming sixth graders look at me with wide-eyed expressions.  "But we've never written those essays before," one brave student will inevitably state. I do my best to calm down the students and assure them that they will be able to navigate the various writing genres during the course of the school year.

I chose the aTi course "All Things Clay" because I wanted to have that experience of being in new, unfamiliar territory. I take professional development courses often during the school year, but the coursework always focuses on literacy, an area in which I am comfortable.

Louis E. Boone once stated, "Don't fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of a life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have."

As I progress through my aTi work this week, I will certainly keep Boone's words in mind.

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