Introduction: Tara Smith

TMSDear TWT readers,

Thank you for the warm and enthusiastic welcome we received when Stacey announced the new TWT team on Friday.  I am so excited to be a part of this group of marvelous educators, and especially honored at Stacey’s invitation to come on board, since TWT was the inspiration for me to create a blog and begin writing about my experiences and thinking as a teacher in the first place.  Today, I’d like to take a few moments to introduce myself.

I began my working life as editor, first at Cloverdale Press and then at Macmillan.  As a Comparative Literature major and History minor from Fairfield University, I loved working in publishing, and being in the company of manuscripts, writers and booklovers. When I left Macmillan to raise my children, first Elizabeth, then Ben, and then Olivia, I always thought that some day I would return to publishing  – but that was not to be.

Twelve years, and eleven moves across four states later, I found myself as class mom in an extraordinary classroom.  This was Marcia Kaiser’s kindergarten, and I was there from time to time to help with this and that.  Watching her teach, and watching the way she inspired her students to learn, motivated me to pursue a teacher’s certification at Ramapo College, here in New Jersey.   After two years of being a mom by day and a student at night, I finally had a classroom of my own – first as a maternity substitute teacher for second grade, and then as a sixth grade “block” teacher – Language Arts, Writing Workshop, and Social Studies (my idea of teacher heaven), where I am in my ninth year.

My teaching practices have been built on work of Nancie Atwell, Lucy Calkins, the “two Dons” – Murray and Graves, and the Staff Developers at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (one benefit of living close to New York City, is that I can take advantage of their workshops, institutes and Saturday Reunions).

I love that I can share my passion for literature, history, and writing with my sixth graders.  Our classroom is a busy place: book clubs, projects,  discussions, gallery walks, and conferences.  But, Writing Workshop holds a special place in my heart (perhaps because I am a writer myself?), and I LOVE teaching writers.  Each new writing workshop year brings new opportunities to unlock stories, and help my students discover that, yes (surprisingly so!) even though writing is hard work, it is so rewarding.

So, readers, that is a little bit about me.  I am a mom (my most important job) of three amazing young people who make me proud every day, I am an educator, and I am still a learner – for every new day brings a new book, a new blog post, a new tweet, to push my thinking forward and inspire me to some new approach.  Teaching is an incredible profession, and I so look forward to learning and sharing with you.

Tara