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Writing Mantras for the New School Year

“Rabbits are brave, rabbits are brave,” Benjamin Bunny  chants to himself in a wobbly voice when faced with the hungry fox, Mr. Todd, in the Nick Jr. cartoon Peter Rabbit. We watch quite a bit of Peter Rabbit in my house and Benjamin’s mantra has begun to stick with us. When my 2 year old daughter Megan has a doctor’s appointment, we’ll say, “Megans are brave! Megans are brave!”  When my almost 5 year old son Alex needs to get his nails trimmed, something he still avoids at all costs, I’ll try my best to convince him with, “Alexes are brave! Alexes are brave!”  It sounds silly (and grammatically incorrect), but it does help all of us get through those scary, doubtful moments.

A mantra can help you believe something you’re not quite convinced of yet and can give you that shot of confidence to keep going. In the article, “5 Ancient Mantras That Will Transform  Your Life“, Mandy Burstein writes, “When we select a word or series of words to repeat in the form of a mantra, we are affirming it to ourselves and allowing its meaning to seep below the surface, into our subconscious, helping to shift our negative habits and patterns into positive ones.”

In May, Betsy asked, “What is your class mantra? I didn’t have one then, but I’ve been thinking about what words inspire me to write and have confidence that what I say matters. This year, I want my students to believe in the power of writing to transform them and make their lives more meaningful.  What words can we say to ourselves to affirm the power of writing and help us when writing feels too challenging? I couldn’t settle on just one writing mantra, so I picked two for my class this year:

“Everyone’s Story Matters”

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The Fantastic Flying  Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore will be one of my first read alouds in writing workshop.  It is an exquisite book with many reading-writing connections.  The central message is that books and words can transform lives. As I read this book, there was a line that struck me: “Everyone’s story matters.”  How simple and true! All of the students sitting before us have stories to share, ideas, questions, passions.  Part of my job as a teacher is to help my students know that their ideas are important and worth sharing.  Everyone matters and everyone’s story matters.  This will be one of our mantras as we become a writing community this year.  We need all of the voices in our classrooms to be heard and read.  I think this mantra might also help students to look at the world differently and remember that every person they meet has a story.

A perfect place to share this with students is Humans of New York. This site shows pictures of people and then a quote from the person, telling part of his/her story.  Teachers would need to carefully preview what they share with students as many topics are inappropriate for the classroom.  Children are frequently featured and could lead to discussions about our similarities and differences.  How might a child living in another part of the world have a different story than you? How does learning each other’s stories tear down some of the walls and misconceptions we have about other cultures, races, religions, and groups? How does sharing your story connect you to others? Opportunities for rich discussion can lead to passionate writing. Class blogging and connecting with student bloggers from around the world helps reinforce this message and mantra: “Everyone’s story matters.”

“Writers are Brave”

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All of our stories matter, but sometimes our stories can be challenging to write. I’m borrowing from Benjamin Bunny, but “Writers are brave” is one mantra that I want my young writers to believe and say to themselves often.  It takes bravery to stare down an empty page or screen and believe that you can fill it with something worthwhile.  It takes bravery to share your writing with a partner and be open to suggestions and feedback.  It takes bravery to admit your writing needs work and to try again.  It takes bravery to share your writing.  Writers ARE brave.

It isn’t easy to write and I need to remember that when I work with my students.  I need to model for them the struggle, the times I got it all wrong and needed a partner to help me fix it up, the times I was so stuck or embarrassed by what I wrote.  The times I said things in writing that were painful to say aloud, but were begging to be said.  It takes courage and confidence to put yourself out there through your writing, but it is also a way to empower yourself, to try to make change in a world sorely needing it, and to connect with other people.

One book that emphasizes this message is My Pen by  Christopher Myers.  In the book, the boy feels small and helpless but then his pen empowers him.  The books is dedicated, “To the people who make things, and to the people who share things.” May this be the year we believe in the power of our own stories and have the courage to write them and share them. “Everyone’s story matters” and “Writers are brave.”

What will be the words that inspire and push you and your writers forward when the going gets tough?

18 thoughts on “Writing Mantras for the New School Year

  1. This is brilliant! We use a mantra to keep our stamina going in writing. It comes from Lucy Calkins… When I am done I have just begun!
    But now I will try something else… This is a Great activity for community building in writers workshop.


  2. Last school year our mantra was: “We are tenacious”. My first graders learned a new word and how important it was to be determined and persistent when writing became challenging for them. I plan to use this mantra again this school year. Thanks for sharing this thoughtful post.


  3. Oh, I love the mantra, “Everyone’s Story Matters.” I also was thrilled to discover and share The Fantastic Flying Books…last year. Can’t wait to start the year with my writers. Thanks for the ideas and the inspiration


  4. My class mantra is usually “Yes, but you can do hard things!” Students often seem to think saying “This is hard!” is going to get them out of doing work. LOL


  5. As an ESL teacher I also often used Assume Nothing as a way of reminding myself that my students did not have the life experience or language proficiency to grapple with many of the academic tasks expected of them. So it was up to me to provide them with both! A tall order….yes. But a very satisfying one. Love your post, Kathleen. You always manage to get to the heart of things with your own big heart


  6. My personal mantra since high school is Maria’s song “I have confidence” from The Sound of Music. She sings it on her little montage journey to the Von Trapp house before meeting the family for the first time. After college, when going to job interviews I would blast this song in my car and sing along at the top of my lungs. I’m sure it released some happy chemical in my brain because I’ve walked into every interview smiling and relaxed knowing that if Maria could do anything, I could too!!


      1. I love The Sound of Music! My own confession- I always sing “My Favorite Things” to myself during unpleasant doctor exams or anything else that makes me fearful or uncomfortable. I should have also been singing “I Have Confidence”! It’s amazing how words (and songs) can help us feel braver. 🙂


  7. As usual love your thinking especially since it coincides with mine. 🙂 I have used one mantra for years for myself as a teacher: Model everything, assume nothing. For my kids I have generally used Be brave and we talk about all the ways someone can be brave. Great post.


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