Wednesday, March 31, 2010


First off, I love teaching.
Students. Teachers. Student Teachers.
Children. Adults.
Writers Young and Young-at-heart.
I live-and-breathe seeding and feeding my students.

But you know what?
Sometimes the teacher needs (re)seeding and feeding, too.

Chalk it up to Winter winding itself down, but, oh, how ready I was this meteorologically-uncertain month of March to sit and learn at the feet of another.
How lovely of the Illinois Reading Council Conference to provide the perfect faculty March 18th through the 20th in downstate Springfield.

Starting with my fellow Teaching Authors, of course, in our most energetic Writing Workshop the conference’s first day, closely followed by the participating teachers-turned-students in my Reluctant Writers hands-on writing project.

Next on my agenda?
Author, educator and friend Dr. Steven L. Layne’s SRO presentation, “Steve’s Top Writing Tips for Grades 3-8.”
How refreshing, how affirming, to hear another teacher bring his passion to the writing practices I live and model.
It was Steve’s spot-on delivery, though, that had the Presenting Author in me making mental notes.
Steve’s door greeter personally handed each entering teacher a bookmark that pictured all of his book covers as well as his website.
Next, Steve himself walked the room’s center aisle personally introducing himself to as many attendees as possible.
And, not to worry about the hand-outs that accompanied his organically-ordered and organized talk. Just visit his website, click on Resources, then “Hand-outs.”
We sat back, engaged, eager to learn.
Teachers left ready and tooled to teach writing.
I left especially inspired to implement Steve’s presentation practices.

“Eat, Prey, Lick: A Story about Love and Furballs” might not seem like an appropriate after-dinner talk for a roomful of teachers gathered to honor Prairie State Award Winner Laurie Lawlor.
But trust me: as presented by Judy Byron Schachner, author of the popular Skippyjon Jones books, it was.
Again, I mentally ooh-ed and ah-ed-ed listening to Judy tell her story via her books. She was brutally candid, revealing, authentic, humorously intertwining her children’s real-life stories, their fantasies and pets, her family’s story, the lives they shared.
One PowerPoint image remained on the screen as Judy made her way across her career and the ordered book covers that attractively bordered the bottom of the slide.
Could/would/should I do the same one day?
Whichever the answer, Judy’s presentation was an award-winning How-to.

It was my Friday visit to the Abraham Lincoln Library, to research the subject of my current picture book biography, that reinforced why I became a teacher.
I was a student first, albeit long, long ago, a student who loved the act of learning.
And there I was, a former fifth grade teacher, serendipitously surrounded by Springfield’s Isles School Fifth Graders also using primary documents to research the lives of Illinoisans who lived in Lincoln’s time!
Their zeal, spirit and acquisitive minds buoyed me.
My subject turned out to be ten-year-old Kelsey’s, too.
I shook my head, smiling, taken by the wonder: I was sharing texts, newspaper accounts and court documents with a fellow student and (hopefully) future reader.

I trained home to Chicago that night, recounting my learning.
By the time I reached Union Station, I realized I’d been sufficiently re-seeded and appropriately fed to successfully take on Spring and its offerings - school visits, Teacher Workshops, Young Author Celebrations, the manuscripts of my talented writers.
Thanks to my much-needed, well-timed Time-out, I’m once again a TeachingAuthor!

Esther Hershenhorn

Don't forget to post a comment by 11 pm Thursday to win a free copy of JoAnn Early Macken's gorgeous Waiting Out the Storm!  Click here for details.


Carmela Martino said...

Thanks so much for the glimpse into some of the sessions I missed!

Tara McClendon said...

That sounds like a fun endeavour. I'm glad you found the reseeding you needed.

Mary Jo said...


Thanks for this post! I just had a conference call with two authors this morning who helped me realize I need to set myself in "timeout" as well. Time out of filling my calendar with teaching events and more time to write for myself! Thanks for reinforcing : )
~Mary Jo

Mary Lee said...

This seems odd, but you told me I could, so here goes: LOVE your dayenu poem!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Hi, Mary Lee ~

You did exactly right! My web page is not set-up for comments, so I sent you here. Thanks for your kind words--dayenu!


Amy L V said...

Dear April,

Oh, that Dayenu day...lovely! I just wanted to send words of power to you for the poem-a-day this month. I'm giving it a whirl too, at We are not alone...


April Halprin Wayland said...

Thanks so much, Amy! And your banjo poem is succinct and moving. Ahhhh....