Nurturing Your Writing with Leaf and Pen in the New Year

Holly Spinelli, January 2024

It’s the start of a new year, which means many of us have made our annual New Year’s resolutions to begin or resume one, some, or all of the things we’ve wanted to do for ourselves, our classrooms, and each other. This is a time full of promise and intention. Sadly, in the next few weeks, our schedules will slowly fill, and with all of those other obligations creeping into our calendars, we start to put our resolutions aside and reserve them for next year. This feels especially true for educators who wish to work on their own writing projects.

It’s 2024. In the last few years, you’ve survived a global pandemic, remote teaching, soaring inflation, social unrest, and numerous difficulties that invaded your personal life. You deserve time. You deserve a nurturing community. You deserve to put your energy into your own writing. How often have you tried to schedule time to let your own creativity pour onto a page, only to find that in the 17 minutes you found between grading, writing last minute letters of recommendation, preparing for another all-staff professional development day, and racing to do the endless list of things in your after-school-life, your mind blanks and you put off your writing for another 17-minute window in the distant future?

It’s exhausting and discouraging to continuously put your works-in-progress aside to mind the extensive list of obligations that demand your time and attention. There is, however, a stretch of time, an exciting place, and a supportive community that sees, understands, and values educators as writers. You do not need to step through the looking glass or fall down a rabbit hole to find it. This wonderful gift of time, space, and community is the Leaf and Pen writing retreat for educators who wish to nurture their own writing. The program’s director, Eve Becker, designed Leaf and Pen specifically for educators. As an educator and a writer herself, she understands the value that so few professional learning spaces understand or provide for educators as writers. She created the retreat out of respect and appreciation for educators who want and need time and space to be writers.

Does this resonate with you? Is setting aside more time for your own writing one of your New Year’s resolutions? If so, registration is still open for Leaf and Pen’s February retreat at the Highlights Foundation. If you are interested in registering, please email Eve Becker to tell her a little about yourself and why you want to attend the retreat. You can also send her an email with questions, too. She is happy to respond and send you a registration link, of course. Leaf and Pen is a gift to us all. It’s an incredible space where educators as writers can workshop their ideas and works-in-progress in a supportive and nurturing environment. It is sure to be four days of serenity, writing and great conversation about all things teaching, writing and teaching writing! Eve encourages educators to “[share their] thoughts about how best to continue creating sanctioned time and space for educators to write, to share their writing and to support each other’s work in and out of the classroom.”

Happy New Year, everyone. We hope your year begins with the gentle, inspiring turn of a new ‘leaf’.

Holly Spinelli is an advocate for equality through anti-racist, anti-bias, and anti-oppressive facilitation within and beyond the classroom. She continues to cultivate community-inspired work as an English teacher at Monroe-Woodbury High School in Central Valley, New York, and as an adjunct instructor in the English Department at SUNY Orange County Community College. She is an Academy for Teachers fellow and served two terms as an active member of the National Council of Teachers of English Committee Against Racism and Bias in the Teaching of English. She is currently an NCTE Open Educational Resources Fellow (2023). She is excited to be part of the NYSEC executive board.

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