Saturday, March 31, 2012

Where I Come Shuffling Back to Blogging.

I feel refreshed after a week away from blogging obligations and thirteen hours of sleep last night. I needed the time away, and while I'm not 100% ready to throw myself back into the fray of blogging, tomorrow is April 1-the beginning of my month-long sprint to read Samuel Richardson's Clarissa. I had planned on staying away for another week, to finish collecting my thoughts and ideas for how to transform my little space on the internet, but because of the Clarissa event, I wanted to at least say that hey, I'm here and you're going to see posts from me again.

Like I said, there were a few reasons for my absence. Mainly, I felt (and still feel) like the book-blogging world has taken some nasty turns. I try very hard not to feed into anything that I see online-the controversies, the arguments, etc. But I do. I think there is a part of all of us that calls us to pay attention to drama. We love it.

But I have to find a way to separate what I see online to what I do here. When I began this place, I had no idea the book blogging community existed. I stumbled into it and was excited to find other people blogging about their reading. I didn't even stumble across any other classics-heavy blogs until 6 months in my project. I had no idea that my project would be appealing to anyone other than myself (and a couple members of my family who have read it from the beginning).

I have closely aligned myself with the book blogging world since I first started reading some other book blogs in those early days. But I never intended to have that label. I don't think I really write "reviews" as many book blogs do. Instead, I try to chronicle my experiences as I read. This whole things started because I wanted to become a better teacher. Some part of myself believed that if I started to really educate myself with great literature, that would somehow transfer over into the classroom. That it would allow me to be a better teacher-to help kids in more ways because I had been exposed to more facets of humanity.

Maybe I was only wishing. And maybe, I really only started this place because I was so tired of feeling unneeded and unwanted. In the 2 1/2 years since I wrote my first post, I have grown a lot. I don't think I knew where starting this place would bring me. I don't think I expected the pressure of keeping this place up, or of having the draw to host events, participate in challenges, and having a voice online in the way people see old, dusty books.

But I do feel this blog has become more than what I thought it would, and in the last six months or so, I have struggled to see how it still fits into what I intended it to be. Yes, I still focus on talking about my reading experience. Yes, I still am yearning for a permanent placement in a school, so I can finally transfer all of this knowledge to my own students (that is not to say anything against the last three placements I've had. All of those kids were "my" kids, but it wasn't my classroom if you know what I mean). I am still looking for ways to express myself and show the world what I am made of. This place was easy to start-no one knew who I was or what I wanted-and I was determined to make my own little mark on the world...much like the writers I have come to love.

I know I'm not there yet. I still have a long way to go until I am happy with myself and this place.

I'm not sure what changes I'll make in the future, but I can't go on with this feeling of pressure from outside sources. I didn't start this with the intentions of feeling obligated to others, and I don't intend to let that feeling continue. As I mull over what I want to do, however, I am going to continue posting and talking about my reading. That is why I started and why I will still continue.

As for the posts on my teaching, I am hesitant to share what I am doing. After I posted about my "Arena" Game for the teaching of The Hunger Games to my lower-level elective class, I had some nasty e-mails. And when I take that into account along with some snide comments about my discussions of what my other classes are up to...I don't know if I am willing to share that anymore. My kids are off limits. They are all wonderful, and their enthusiasm as we read, and as they adjusted to having me as their teacher, is all the positive reinforcement I need in my life in regards to my teaching. I don't post about it to feel validated, but because I want to share my passion. That was ruined for me last week.

Well, this is far longer than I wanted it to be...because I really meant to say is that I am back. It feels good to be typing this into draft form and knowing it will soon be live online. I missed you guys, and I cannot wait to share more of my thoughts on reading with you.

Please let me know if there is a post I missed this week. My reader looks scary, so I'll probably mark it as "all read." I just don't want to miss anything!


  1. Welcome home. I've missed your posts and I love the way you talk about books.

  2. Welcome back! Just wanted to say that I find it completely crazy and - to be blunt - outright disgusting that people would send you nasty emails about the arena game. They must be out of their minds! Having a dedicating, imaginative, engaged (and I am sure engaging) teacher like you would be a gift for any child or adolescent. It is teachers like you that made my school time something that I remember with joy. I really respect the energy you put into your teaching and I just want you to know that for every nasty email and snide comments, there are at least ten people thinking "wow, well done!".

  3. ps. have been following your blog for quite a while as you are on my blogroll but for some reason has not "followed" you via the blogspot follow thingie. Just noticed it now and you have an official new follower :-)

  4. I'm glad to see you back, Allie! I've pretty much declared my blog my space this week -- to say what I please and delete what offends me without any explanation or apology. Some blogs are open forums, but mine is not. Mine is for me, and I'm guessing yours is for you. There's a lot of confusion/discussion going around about what is a "review" and what is not. I'm guessing the same blurring of purposes comes with the label "book blog" and what is expected on one. I think it's time to re-define the label, because it seems ludicrous to me that a blog that discusses books should have to dodge the “book blog” label lest it be torn apart.

    I didn't comment on your Hunger Games game post only because I've never read the book, so I didn't really understand the game. I did read it though -- and can't imagine why in the world you'd receive nasty emails over it. There's safety in anonymity perhaps. People seem to think that because it is posted online, it belongs to the public to be critiqued and debated. I abhor debate and really hate being critiqued by the judgmental public. I prefer to critique myself and live up to God and my family's hopes -- not every stranger who wanders onto my blog. The public is filled with imperfect people who believe they know best. It's intrusive to say the least, when they get a hold of your heart's passion and treat it as something laid out for public scrutiny. Some folks don't understand the difference between sharing and releasing. You don't post to have it critiqued -- only to say, "This is on my mind, this is what I have done today, here is who I am."

    I understand the pull to keep some things to yourself. What a shame, though, that it should be required.

    Last week, after all my own stress (and public apology thereafter), someone entered one of my personal posts to begin an aggressive argument about politicians – seething anger. I was dismayed to say the least. The comment was off-topic and clearing geared to cause a fight with other visitors. I deleted it of course, but I was left wondering why I bother sharing. Not to invite that, certainly. Only moments later, I received a handwritten card in the mail from a fellow blogger who wanted to express fondness for what I try to accomplish over at my place, and help calm me down after the recent week's stress. She offered some kind words and pretty much told me to ignore the nonsense. It immediately made me smile and reminded me that, just like in "life," putting ourselves out there invites both good and bad reactions. I can honestly say that I have received far more warmth and kindness in blogging, than I have the dark reactions. And I'd rather have met the good people (like yourself), than never have tried blogging at all.

    Anyway, on to Clarissa, right? :) xo

  5. Allie, I too am so glad you're back :) And, I'm thrilled to hear your true voice in today's post...this is your blog and you can post whatever you want here. If some folks don't like what you post, then they can go read other posts that they like better. It's really that simple. I don't spend much time on blogs where I feel too much commercialization is going on...that's not the point of blogging to me. It may be the point of blogging to some folks though and that's just fine. All the bloggers who think they make all the rules of blogging and what a review is supposed to look like can all talk to each other...and leave the rest of us alone :)
    You keep doing what you do...and delete the naysayers. They obviously don't have as much to do as the rest of us. :p Sincerely glad you're back :):)

  6. Wow I can't believe you got nasty e-mails. Your blog, and you, are such an inspiration. I haven't been around the blogging world much lately, I'm just weaving my way back into book blogging, but I definitely think, even though there are some unpleasant things, book blogging in general is amazing and I have met some incredible people this way. So that's what I remember when all the drama starts.

  7. I'm glad your back! I hate that you received negative emails about your arena game - it sounded great to me, and those kids are lucky to have you! They are probably just jealous they aren't as creative as you. :)

  8. Some of my favorite blogs are those that combine teachery experience and bookish thoughts. When I define myself as a person, the role that I immediately equate with *I* is *teacher*. I can't go a convo without telling some anecdote from my classroom or brainstorm new ideas for what to do. I seek out THAT sort of passion on line as well as the passion for books. Where education is today, there are so many negative folks in the system. It can be just as draining. So, posts like yours are SO meaningful to me. I hope to still see them.


  9. Welcome back, Allie! I really enjoy reading your blog, and no matter how you decide to transform your space here, I'll still be reading. :)

  10. I still can't believe you've received negative feedback on your teaching/arena games posts, but I'm glad your back!

  11. Welcome back, Allie! I know how much this blog has meant to you and truly hope that you can find a way to make it your own and not let the nasty people get to you.

    Good luck with Clarissa as you head through April and have a wonderful weekend!

  12. I'm so excited to see your return to cyberspace. I hope you've found your time away rejuvenating. Like others have said in the comments, I'll still be reading after you shake up your blog a bit. I'm looking forward to seeing what you do with it.

    Good luck with Clarissa this month.

  13. I would be sad to see your posts on teaching fall to the wayside. As a teacher myself, I love hearing ideas from others to steal, umm I mean adapt, for my own classes!

  14. I don't consider myself a "reviewer" either. I'm just recording my reactions. Honestly, I don't want to give away too much of a book's plot, and I don't know that much about literature to consider myself a good reviewer. I think I've really only ever had one comment that was negative -- I made a list of books I would never read, and someone didn't like what I said about Henry Miller and got completely off topic, which made no sense. Of course it was an anonymous commenter. Whatever.

    I think you must be an awesome teacher, wish I'd had someone like you instead of my freshman English teacher, who was just awful. The only books we actually read were To Kill a Mockingbird and Heart of Darkness. We didn't read Romeo and Juliet; we watched the movie! We didn't read The Great Gatsby. . . we watched the movie. (See a pattern here?) Never read Dickens, Hemingway, Steinbeck. . .. the list goes on. The only good thing was that I didn't end up hating classics like some other friends, and now I can just enjoy them without worrying about being graded on them.

    Those nasty commenters must just be jealous because you're awesome and creative and care about students. Maybe they're just burnt out and feel threatened. Anything that gets kids interested in reading is okay with me.

  15. i love how you do you blog! And the pressure and stress is something that I face about 2.5 years into blogging too. I've stepped back (obviously! since I rarely find time to blog/comment these days) and it feels good. do what you need to do for yourself. I'm so sorry people are nasty and dumb.

  16. I'll be sorry to stop reading about your teaching since I found it to be a very interesting part of your blogging. I think that when it comes to the internet, there are a lot of things one need to simply ignore. I think that we all need to blog the way we feel like - if someone is nasty and leaves cruel comments, delete them and ignore them and move on. I think it's the only way to do it. Most people haven't been educated about how to behave online and apparently, are not able to behave decently and like they (hopefully) do in real life. Keep on blogging if that's what you want!

  17. It's so good to see you're back. It makes me sad to know a bunch of bitter idiots made you feel like you're not a good teacher or insulted your kids. For what it's worth, I always loved your teaching posts. Brings back memories of the year I spent teaching English and all the plans I have for when I'm ready to give it another shot.
    I'm so excited about the Clarissa readalong. I've been having issues finding a copy, but I'll sink into it as soon as I do. Also, I have a couple of posts about Great Expectations that I'd like you to check out. I know you're not the biggest fan of this book, so I'm curious about your interpretation of it.
    Anyway, the main point of this comment: Welcome back, Allie. Considering the comments this post has, I suppose it's easy to see we've missed you.