Day 5: Finding Inspiration and Adding Artifacts

My daily writer’s walk this morning and checking in with our groups this afternoon gave me some great ideas for how to move forward with my project. The walk was shorter than I planned, since I couldn’t spend long outside during this muggy heatwave, but I still found some solace and inspiration in walking a familiar path through the woods near my apartment. 

It’s one I’ve walked many times, and today as I strolled across the trail dappled with sunlight and listened to the catbirds crying in the trees, I recalled the inspiration I drew from this path during March and April of last year. The pandemic was in its early stages, and I was still getting used to working from home and wearing a mask and ordering takeout instead of sitting in a restaurant. I went for walks on this trail with my then-fiancé (now husband) and wrote poetry that not only described the beauty of the nature around me, but also helped me work through my complicated feelings on the world getting shut down.

One particular poem, titled “Outlook during Quarantine,” included excerpts from the emails in my inbox. I reflected on the questions my students were asking me and the situations they were describing that made it difficult for them to complete their work from home. I’m bringing this up now because this afternoon in our groups, Dr. Zamora suggested I consider adding artifacts—such as lesson plans or emails—to my writing project to create a finished product similar to a scrapbook or a diary. I really liked this suggestion (especially since it’s something I’ve done in my creative writing before), so as I move forward with my project, I’m considering how to play with the genre of my piece and how to visually construct a coherent narrative that includes genuine artifacts from my first year of teaching. 

I’ve also developed some goals for the end of the retreat. This morning, I was able to finish up a second vignette that describes the week leading up to school closures in March; this afternoon, I got started on a third short story that explores teaching remotely for those supposed “two weeks” from home that stretched on indefinitely through 2021.

I’m going to follow Kate’s suggestion and go back to my first vignette, which details my first day of teaching, and draw out important elements that deserve to be expanded on. That way, there won’t be such a large gap between teaching pre-pandemic and mid-pandemic. As it stands now, I haven’t given the reader much context about what teaching looked like in “normal” times, so by the end of the retreat, I’m hoping to have a least one more pre-pandemic vignette that expands on the in-person elements of teaching.