SOLSC: A Walk in the Park

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The late Donald Graves, widely regarded as the father of the writing process approach to teaching writing and one of the foremost experts in the field, heavily encouraged teachers to do their own writing. In an interview with Scholastic Instructor, he was asked to choose the one, most important thing writing teachers should do. His response:

 Write yourself. Invite children to do something you’re already doing. If you’re not doing it, Hey, the kids say, I can’t wait to grow up and not have to write, like you. They know. And for the short term and the long term, you’ll be doing yourself a favor by writing. All of us need it as a survival tool in a very complex world. The wonderful thing about writing is that it separates the meaningless and the trivial from what is really important. So we need it for ourselves and then we need to invite children to do what we’re doing. You can’t ask someone to sing a duet with you until you know the tune yourself.

At Two Writing Teachers, teacher writing is supported and promoted each Tuesday and all month long in March with the Slice of Life Story Challenge. Teachers and students from all over the world come to Two Writing Teachers to share their stories, small moments, or segments of a day in their lives. Writers, or Slicers, as they have come to be known, respond to each other with encouraging comments and warm support. This post is my Slice of Life story for today. I welcome others to click here to find out how to join the challenge. Whether you are a teacher of writing or have a different profession entirely, writing is a sure way to uncover truths you didn’t know existed.

A Walk in the Park

I am out walking in the park with my three week old son and talking to my father. My father is telling me that he is planning to downsize his business. For nearly forty years, he has run a music store, mainly selling and repairing pianos, and also selling guitars, sheet music, and offering music lessons. His business has become a pillar of the town in Indiana where my parents live. When people from the town meet me, they say, “Anna Gratz, as in, Gratz Piano?” Somehow, this small, niche business has managed to thrive, even though every chain store imaginable has gone up around it and most other small businesses were forced to close their doors long ago. My father raised five children on this business, sent all of us to college and gave us enough of a head start that we all have the luxury of choosing our own paths, but not so much of a head start that we don’t know how to work hard.

So now, my father is telling me he is planning to downsize so that he can be freed up to try new things in the next phase of his life. He wants to be able to spend more time in warm weather, to be able to visit his first grandchild more often. He tells me that life is all about change, and that in order to survive, we have to be willing to change. I look down at my son, whose face seems to become rounder each time I pick him up from a sleep, whose miraculous transformation from a dot inside my body to a breathing, separate human being is the epitome of change.

And I have changed. I am no longer the kind of person who walks in the park without a heart that is filled up to the point of bursting by her child. I am also no longer the child. I am the parent. But of course, I am also the child. My father, who was recently informed that his cancer has returned, but who is brave enough to continue to look forward, is still my hero. I hang up the phone and tuck Thomas’s blanket closer around him. I hope that I can be as good a parent as my father, the kind of parent who accepts that change is the way forward, and who adapts to the new with grace and courage.



12 thoughts on “SOLSC: A Walk in the Park

  1. Change is hard but change also keeps us growing! What a wonderful father and model you have! You are now in those in between years – daughter, and mother years! They are a wonderful place to be – still learning from your parents and helping your family learn. Take Care and thanks for a moving post!

  2. Being a mother is the best! I am sure you will be a wonderful parent because it wounds like you have a wonderful role model. May you have many more walks in the park – the park of life.

  3. First, I have never read that exact quote (at least not that I can remember) from Don Graves who I was lucky enough to confer with at NCTE in 2007. We’ll have to run that one on TWT prior to the March Challenge.

    Second, wow! Your writing (especially your ability to craft eloquent prose three weeks post-partum!) blew me away. The words about what your Dad, who is a legend in your IN town, taught you about hard work and family is incredible. I hope his treatments go quickly so he can enjoy working less and spending time with family more.

  4. Thank you so much for your kind words everyone! Even though I am bleary-eyed and my thinking is quite impaired, I just had to write about my dad. I really appreciate your thoughts. Stacey I’m so jealous about you conferring with Donald Graves!

  5. What a powerful post. I am glad that you captured this moment and for this glimpse into the multi-generational dynamics. It sounds like you are enjoying your life as a new mom.

    I also loved the intro including the Donald Graves quote. I just had a class of undergraduate pre-service teachers do a quick write about who they are as writers right now with the premise that in order to be effective teachers of writing, teachers should be writers. They will also be slicing winter term as an extension of this current class. I look forward to sharing the first part of your slice with them.

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