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The Music of My Pen

The experience of participating in etmooc – Educational Technology Media Open Online Course – since January was awesome in developing my literacy with the digital and media opportunities that abound for education.  Thus I felt confident that I could pursue my learning goals without the constrictions of traditional learning models.  So, as etmooc is gearing down, I have ventured into the hope that this MOOC – English Composition course through Coursera at Duke University – will develop my writing skill as a teacher, a learner, and a writer.

This first piece of writing completes the challenge to introduce myself to my class.

Image of a modern fountain pen writing in curs...
Image of a modern fountain pen writing in cursive script. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The magic of finding the pen tip its voice onto the blank stave, harmonizing ideas into life.  A breathless rest followed by a slow heartbeat until the thoughts bleed from the melodious voice of the subtle nib.

As a reader, my heart and mind have always been enraptured with the beauty of words.  To see how one’s imagination, heart and mind can find its voice onto a page has always enchanted, yet muted me.  I, too, have always wanted to make the journey to where my nib flows freely.  Sure, I have captured a riff here and even a song there – but never fully committed to the orchestral enchantment of being confidently called a writer.

This is the ironic ideal that precedes the old pithy idiom that “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.”  Yes, the truth is … I teach Senior High School English.  So I navigate the cacophony of teenage writing, but for years – never dared reveal the melodies in me. 

All this changed one day in a ballroom in Chicago where I basked in the glory of the gurus at the NCTE conference, wondering if I’d ever really grow up and be wise like the big kids and as energetically creative as the young kids?   After many enlightening presentations – actually most of them just perpetuated my self-doubt of mediocrity – I sat in the packed audience to hear Jim Burke, Kelly Gallagher, and Penny Kittle prophetize that I was to “Practice What I Preach” – writing and sharing it publicly, with my students!  Way down, deep inside, my chords shrieked: “I’m not good enough – I just pretend”!

However I have embarked on the elusive quest of my own rhapsody by “Blogging Beside My Students” at

Through this course I intend to reflect on the process of learning as a writer, hoping to transfer such skills into my classroom.  But, truly, I hope to inspire my symphony. 


I am an English teacher with FFCA Charter Academy who struts and frets her hour upon the stage. After attending the 2011 NCTE conference in Chicago, and being inspired by the likes of Penny Kittle, Jim Burke and Kelly Gallagher, I decided to embark on the journey to "practice what I preach!" So - here it goes. I'm sure this will be a process that batters and bruises, but hopefully I come out a mere bit wiser as I blog beside my students as a teacher and a learner. I try to blog some of their assignments; otherwise, I use the space to reflect on my learning and teaching!

2 thoughts on “The Music of My Pen

  1. Pamela,

    Teaching presents unique problems in the workforce. Very few offices would have a rookie and a twenty year veteran who essentially have the same job and title. Our “clients” are ageless, and yet somehow we keep getting older. Teachers, perhaps especially dedicated teachers, begin questioning their relevance, skill, and ability to connect very early. Perhaps that is because we know that learning often happens most effectively in the context of relationships, so we are sensitive to our ability to nurture them and wary of the potential for hurt while doing so.

    I applaud your vulnerability. Vulnerability is a building block of relationship and requires strength and courage. Your students will learn from your example as a writer and a relationship builder. I don’t know how to teach teenagers without being relational. How else could they possibly trust me with writing that means anything to them? We have to have the courage and discernment to lead the way.

    I empathize with your apprehension (I deal with my own every semester), but I’ve never regretted opening up my writing notebook and my process for students. After the terror of sharing, the fruit born from such exercises in vulnerability have always been worth it. Your post and other writings clearly show that you have plenty of skill as a writer and the heart of a teacher. Take confidence that you can carry the melody of your writing classes and that your students will harmonize until they find melodies of their own.

    Happy harmonizing,


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