Change is good, right?

-By Claudia Felske

Change is good, right?

That’s what they say.

Well, I’m changing…

I’m changing from a teacher-blogger to a teacher-novelist. I am here to announce that I will no longer be blogging directly about educational practices, policies, and trends not because there’s nothing more to say (not even close) and not because I’ve exhausted all the topics (even less close)!

Let me explain. If you will, indulge me in a momentary forray into my personal life: a trip into the biggest single piece of procrastination in my life. I’ve been intending to write a novel…for the last 25+ years.

Sure, I’ve had fits and starts, ideas and sketches, but nothing resembling a novel ever materialized until this July when I sent an email to a friend.

It all started at the beginning of summer. I was on a walk, listening to a podcast. Gretchen Rubin was describing what she calls the 4 tendencies, a framework she uses to describe personality types. I’ve always been a sucker for frameworks and surveys and opportunities to reflect, so I took the survey and discovered that I’m an “Obliger”: that is, I will go to great extremes to meet the expectations others have for me. Outer expectations (degrees, certifications, presentations, committees, and yes, blogs) are dutifully met. Inner expectations (writing that novel, losing that last ten pounds, daily dental flossing—you laugh, but I’m serious) are a different story. Things I want to accomplish just for my own sake take the back seat, every time.

So that day at the start of summer, while I was walking in the woods with my headset on, a caller (I should find this caller and thank her) self-identified as an Obliger and asked Gretchen Rubin for a solution which would allow her to achieve her personal goals. The answer, Rubin explained, is to create outside accountability. Find someone to hold you accountable, she suggests, a spouse, a friend, a coach—someone to answer to when trying to achieve your goal. Obligers will disappoint themselves 9 times out of 10, but rarely will they risk disappointing someone else.  

It sounded so simple, but it made so much sense. That was me. And so when I returned from our family vacation, it was time. I drafted an email to my friend. I explained my goal—to finally achieve the habit of daily writing, a habit that would allow me to finally write my novel. I asked if she could help.  

Since that email:

  • We’ve met once per week to strategize, and review, and check in.
  • I email her daily about my writing progress (outside accountability).   
  • I’ve turned my fits and starts into….THE FIRST THIRD OF MY NOVEL (excuse me for text-screaming, but this has been a long time in the coming).
  • I’ve simplified my life, bowing out of a number of obligations— worthwhile groups  and activities that I’m confident will continue their worthwhile work without me. 
  • I’ve established and kept the schedule that I’ve wanted for the past 25 years: I write every morning from 5:15-6:15 a.m.; I write every night (usually from 7:00-8:00). Writing now marks the bookends of my day, every day, whether it’s summer, a school day, or a weekend. It’s what I do.

I don’t know why it took me 25 years to reach this point. I don’t know why I heard that podcast on that day. I don’t know why it led me to email that friend (the right person at the right time). I don’t know why my stars have now aligned, and why they hadn’t earlier.   

Now, before you accuse me of delusions of grandeur, let me assure you that I am under no illusions of the difficulties that lie ahead. I do not have an agent, I do not have a book deal, I do not have a completed novel, but what I do have is a daily writing habit, what I do have is one third of a completed novel, and what I do know is that THE most essential prerequisite to writing a novel is ACTUALLY WRITING THE NOVEL!  And that, I am ecstatic to say, is finally happening.

So what does any of this have to do with this blog, with teaching, and with you, my dear readers?

Well, since I’m changing, so is my blog.

I’ve blogged monthly for the Marquette Educator for 6 years; I’ve blogged on my own a touch longer than that. It’s been a good run. I appreciate the opportunity it’s given me to reflect on my field and on my classroom. I love that it’s made some people reconsider the state of education. I love that it’s helped family and friends know more about what I do and why I do it. I’m still humbled that on February 9, 2015, my voice made it to the national stage and I learned what it’s like to have a blogpost “go viral.”

But, as the adage goes, “change is good,” so as I morph into novelist territory, my blogging will morph into a writer’s reflections on writing.

Of course I am still a teacher (I will always be a teacher) so I my posts will inevitably refer to teaching and learning, particularly teaching and learning about writing, but instead of being the thoughts of a teacher who blogs about education it will be the thoughts of a teacher who writes fiction.

My plan is to reflect on writing—-the discipline of doing it, the challenges of teaching it, the frustrations and joys of being immersed in it.  So who might want to read this morphed blog? Anyone who writes, anyone who wants to write, anyone who wants their students to write (not just English teachers), and anyone who is mildly curious about the goings on of this writer.

So now, onto part two of my novel and onto part two of my life.

Change is good.

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