So last year we started our pre-Summer Institute activities with a Writing Retreat. More than a month before the SI began, the group gathered to write. We did it again this year, this past week. In the Writing Retreat, we go through a whole range of writing activities, start lots of pieces, think a lot about writing styles, and exercise some muscles that for many of the fellows have been dormant for quite a while. We don’t talk about how any of the work would fit with students; we don’t talk about lesson plans or organizers or feedback or anything else that a group of teachers might be drawn to discussing. But we write, and we share what we write, and a group of strangers comes to know each other not as teachers of a particular grade or at a particular school, but as writers.
Then we build on that. Soon, we’ll build on that by peering into each other’s classroom practices and collaborating to design and modify lessons and units. First, though, we build on that by expanding our audience. SI fellows are writers – we’ve proven that to each other because we’ve shared what we’ve written and we’ve promised to write and share more. And we’ve been challenged to share what we write with anyone else who might want to read it. So here’s one piece I wrote during the Writing Retreat. No excuses, no other explanation, no expectation that anyone else will particularly care, but hopeful that you’ll at least thank me for sharing it.
I think I fell in love with the Chicago Cubs in 1984. I didn’t admit it then; I played hard-to-get as effectively as they played hard-to-love – they were called the “lovable losers” after all. But I was in middle school and popularity was defined imperfectly: I wanted a winner. So I flirted with the ’86 Mets, and the Twins, or at least Kirby Puckett, in the late ’80’s and early ’90’s, and somehow jumped right to the Indians after that. This sampling of the flavor-of-the-month didn’t really satisfy me, though, and I always kept one eye on the Cubs. It was easy to do; WGN showed them off almost every day, and I automatically connected afternoon homework to the sound of Harry Carey calling a game, looking up from math problems or a map of Europe with every crack of the bat, and even dropping a novel when Harry would cry out, “Holy Cow!”
I’m an unabashed fan now, no longer caring if friends know my team rarely wins (they know, and they remind me), and no longer worried about middle school definitions of popularity (a lesson I’ve tried to teach my girls, who will sing “Go Cubs Go,” but without the spirit I’d like). And hey, as I write this, things are looking up. Maybe soon my pitiful refrain, “this is the year!” will ring true.