Introduction: Dana Murphy

IMG_1702Dear Readers,

Like many of you, I have been a follower of the TWT blog for several years, so it feels a bit strange to be sitting on this side of the post!  I am honored and grateful to be here.  I feel like I already know so many of you from the Slice of Life Story Challenge, and I’m eager to become better acquainted.  Please allow me to tell you a little more about myself.

I always wanted to be a teacher.  Some of my earliest childhood memories are of playing school with my sister in our shared bedroom.  My path to get here was not a straight one.  There were detours along the way including a brief study in forensic chemistry, a couple of waitressing jobs, and a semester or two of ‘undecided’ studies.

Eventually, I graduated from Governors State University in Illinois with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education.  My minor was mathematics, and I was hired to teach 6th grade in Midlothian School District 143, located in the suburbs of Chicago.  I am, by nature, a left-brained person, and I loved the finite, logical nature of teaching math.  Although I was a reader and writer in my personal life, I felt rather uninspired as a teacher of reading and writing.   Then, I read Mosaic of Thought by Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmerman and In the Middle by Nancie Atwell.    My life was forever changed.  I saw that what I did in my personal life as a reader and as a writer were valuable tools as a teacher of reading and writing.  My love affair with all things literacy had begun.

I spent several years teaching 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grades, and then I earned my Master’s Degree from Governors State University.   I am currently a Literacy Coach in Midlothian School District 143 in a K-8 building.  I spend my days in the classrooms, working side by side in coaching cycles with my colleagues.  I also facilitate our grade-level team meetings and offer various forms of professional development  to our staff.   I sure do love my job.

My thinking and learning is heavily influenced by Ellin Keene, Nancie Atwell, Katie Wood Ray, Carl Anderson, and Diane Sweeney.  When I grow up, I hope to be like them.  Their work has shaped my teaching in profound ways.  I believe in helping kids find their inner writers.  I believe in being explicit about what writers and readers do.  I believe in having high expectations, and I believe in our students because I see them rise to the occasion each and every time.  I believe in giving kids time to read and write every. single. day.

And I believe, more than anything else, that teachers of reading and writing have to be readers and writers themselves.  Last March, I invited my colleagues to join the Slice of Life Story Challenge with me.  Seventeen of us committed to writing every day.  We wrote and we read and we commented and we cried and we became not just colleagues, but friends, through our writing.  Along the way, we learned a lot about teaching writing, too, such as how to write a title and how to choose a topic and when to include dialogue….the list goes on and on.  Teachers of writing have to write.  This much I know is true.

Aside from being a writer, I am a wife to my husband of almost 6 years and Mommy to my two daughters, Maddie (age 4) and Kate (age 1).   They are adorable and sassy and smart and the sweetest souls I’ve ever known.  In my spare time, I like to read, cook, and lament about how I have no spare time.  I can’t miss an episode of Parenthood, and I cry without fail during each one.

I am excited to begin this new learning journey with each of you, and I thank you for the warm welcome.