Inner Work at the Outer Banks

It is early morning.  I am at the beach and on the screened porch that I love.  I came in from my walk, poured my coffee, and sat down at this familiar weathered picnic table to write.  The porch is swept clean from dinner last night.  The games that followed a summer feast of crabs and corn are put away.   The floor lamp that lit the scrabble tiles has been taken back into the living room.  The porch is drenched with the dawn pink light of the early morning ocean sky; it is a place of quiet solitude.  I cherish my mornings here.

I teach writing to my third graders. I teach that writing is looking and not missing the moment.  I teach that writers write everyday. And I practice what I preach. I write what I see. And I write because, well, because life is exquisite… with moments that overfill and spill onto the page.  Writing is an invitation not to miss those moments.  This is the invitation that I extend to my students.

This morning, as I walked on the sand at the water’s edge, I watched the sun rise out of the ocean, creating a path of light across the water. I stopped and looked and there they were: dolphins arching out of the water like a line of synchronized swimmers.  You’ll only see them if you look.  Quick now. Here. Now. Always.

Summer solitude is essential to the reflective, loving, creative (and very extroverted) work of teaching.   Every August, like this porch, I am swept clean. I have room to remember what I know.

This morning an early cricket sings and in her song a warning bell rings: summer’s end, summer’s end, summer’s end. Soon I’ll get ready to teach another group of children to uncover all that is too beautiful, or frightening, or exquisite, or amazing, or awesome about life– and how to catch what spills over with a pencil in hand.  Who are they?  I don’t know yet.  But I will.  And time has taught me what I know to be true — I will love being their teacher.

There are the words of T.S. Eliot:

And the children in the apple-tree


Not known, because not looked for


But heard, half-heard, in the stillness


Between two waves of the sea.


Quick now, here, now, always—

The sun is higher in the sky.   It is time to clear this table to make way for the day’s possibilities: my husband’s fresh biscuits; children and grandchildren; sandcastles and play in the surf; games of Crazy Eights and bridge. I hear feet. I am ready for all of it.

About Annie Campbell

Annie Campbell is a National Board Certified third grade teacher and loves her work. She especially enjoys teaching children how to be enthusiastic readers, writers, and problem solvers. Every year, she hopes to inspire her students to be committed citizens who know they can make a difference in the world around them. When she is not teaching, Annie enjoys cooking for family and friends; she likes to lose herself in a good book; she loves discovering new ideas, restaurants, perfect picnic places, and movies with her husband, Ben.
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15 Responses to Inner Work at the Outer Banks

  1. Linda says:

    Love your post and the healthy teacher student relationship that shines through all of your posts.

  2. Mr. Parker says:

    Take care of my little second graders. I can’t believe it’s the last bunch I will send you. I’ll be in touch…

  3. blkdrama says:

    What a lovely Slice. I’m right there with you! Thanks for taking me along 🙂

    Every August, like this porch, I am swept clean. I have room to remember what I know.

    This morning an early cricket sings and in her song a warning bell rings: summer’s end, summer’s end, summer’s end. Soon I’ll get ready to teach another group of children to uncover all that is too beautiful, or frightening, or exquisite, or amazing, or awesome about life– and how to catch what spills over with a pencil in hand. Who are they? I don’t know yet. But I will. And time has taught me what I know to be true — I will love being their teacher.

    Bonnie

  4. blkdrama says:

    Hi Annie,
    I’m not sure if my comment took so I’m writing it again just to make sure. Thanks for taking me along on your lovely morning routine, perfect for summer writing.
    I loved the whole post, especially this section:
    Every August, like this porch, I am swept clean. I have room to remember what I know.

    This morning an early cricket sings and in her song a warning bell rings: summer’s end, summer’s end, summer’s end. Soon I’ll get ready to teach another group of children to uncover all that is too beautiful, or frightening, or exquisite, or amazing, or awesome about life– and how to catch what spills over with a pencil in hand. Who are they? I don’t know yet. But I will. And time has taught me what I know to be true — I will love being their teacher.

    I’m proud to be slicing with you
    Bonnie

  5. Lynnelle says:

    So needed to read your slice this morning!! Thank you for your piece today!

  6. Stacey says:

    Enjoy your time in NC. Nourish your soul now before the school year begins.

  7. Mrs. V says:

    What a perfect slice for this time of year. It adds to my level of excitement to go back for my first official day of the school year on Friday.

  8. Tara says:

    You captured so much: a memory of a summer evening, delight in a new day by the sea, and hope for the children you will soon be teaching. I love the inclusion of the Eliot poem – I, too, think of the children in the apple tree.

  9. onesunflower says:

    Thank you so much for this post – I want to share it with my colleagues – and will oh too soon! My feet are headed there but my mind is still on the porch.

  10. Ruth says:

    Wow Annie. I’ve been noticing the way writers take readers back and forth through time within a single scene. I noticed you do this effortlessly. From the dawn pink light to your classroom to the crab legs from last night to the hopes for the day — I’m enamored.
    Thanks for writing today, Ruth

  11. caroline524 says:

    I enjoyed reading your slice. I could close my eyes and picture what you saw on your walk this morning.

  12. Helen says:

    We have been missing you. It was so great to read your blog just now. So beautiful. I hope you have a nice rest of the summer.

  13. Maryanne says:

    Oh, I am so happy to have found you! I needed to read the line about what is certain is that you will love being their teacher. Your words graced my morning and melted my anxiety about my first year of teaching coming up. My dream is help the kids love writing. You will be along for the ride.

  14. Antionette says:

    Your description of a day on the beach is lovely and smooth.For a moment I pictured myself relaxing on the beach. What a grand moment to write abut.

  15. Mallory says:

    I love how you said ” And like the porch I am swept clean..” It makes me think of the work I do for Comfort Zone Camp. At the end of camp the director will tell us to go home, pamper yourself, your love tank is empty and needs to be filled. Everyone needs to take some time for themselves. It’s good for you to refresh. Come back to your reality new.

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