Sarah Mulhern Gross has been a middle school language arts teacher and currently teaches 9th and 12th grade English. She has a keen interest in young adult fiction and nonfiction and strives to connect her students with authors outside the classroom. Her classroom library holds over 1,000 books which she lends out to students and teachers at her high school. She currently co-teaches 9th grade Humanities, a combined history and world literature class, also intertwined with Biology and Software Applications. She believes this interdisciplinary approach allows her students to succeed in thinking outside the box and nurtures their creativity. Sarah loves writing and currently blogs at TheReadingZone.
As a teacher, I always hit a wall when summer comes. I am exhausted and ready to relax, thinking of days spent by the pool and hiking with my dog. But I also see the summer as my time to write and read as much as I want my students to write and read. I always make grand plans for the summer but when the time comes, I end up taking a detour. I’m tired! And writing is so haaaard. (Yes, I sound like my students!) This summer, though, I am determined to read/write more. Last summer I got married, which took up a lot of my free time (in a good way, of course!). I did manage to draft a book proposal for a professional publisher so I aim to polish that this summer and work on a novel. I know it’s hard to start writing, so I have been thinking a lot about what I need to do this summer. You know, besides spending time on Twitter and blogging.
Before school lets out for the summer each year I find myself book talking, lending books from my classroom library, and encouraging students to continue using Goodreads over the summer. I’ve had a lot of luck with students reading over the summer, thanks to the love of reading they discover during the school year. But writing is always an uphill battle. I’ve tried summer work packets, journal prompts, and everything else I can think of. For some reason, writing seems to be difficult for students in the summer, even when there are no rules and no assignments to complete.
And if I am completely honest, I find myself making excuses to avoid writing too. So I can’t really blame my students! But over the years, I have found one type of writing I am always willing to do. No matter how busy I may be, no matter where I may be, travel journal writing gets me writing.
Even when I am busy I have found one pathway to writing that always works — journaling about the places I visit. When my husband and I travel, I always carry a Moleskine notebook and a few pens with me in my carry-on and in my backpack so that I can jot down memories when we have downtime. So far, I have filled notebooks in central Mexico, Ireland, and the Western Caribbean. I take time each night to write about our day and I find myself falling into a routine of writing each night before bed. I’ve written on buses, on beaches, in cars, on planes, and on mountains. Bumpy roads, turbulence, rough seas — nothing has stopped my travel writing. I love being able to look back at the Moleskines on my shelf, knowing they hold memories of our journeys.
When I realized travel journals work for me, I started recommending them to my students. On a personal level, I recommended that my sister, who is entering 7th grade, bring a journal with her on our trip to Ireland. After explaining my journals, she agreed and has already packed a journal and special pens in her carry-on. I have told my own students to bring journals with them to camps, beach houses, family vacations, and mission trips. It doesn’t matter what the journal looks like; I’ve had students use notebooks, Moleskines, blogs, and anything else you can think of. What matters is the writing.
There are no rules for travel journals. You can write about the events of the day or just record a special moment. Maybe you like to sketch and want to include illustrations of your day. Or maybe you want to glue ephemera into the pages so that you have tangible reminders of your trip. A travel journal can be anything you want it to be. Maybe you aren’t traveling, but just taking day trips during summer. It doesn’t matter! What is important is that it gets you writing.
So grab a notebook, put a pen in your pocket, and and get writing this summer! Hand a notebook to your kids and suggest they write and draw about the events of their summer. Simple writing like this can and will get you into the habit of daily writing!