A Little Research
During a recent writing challenge, I was asked to “Reflect on my OLW for 2020,” which left me with the obvious question: What the heck is a OLW?
I did not realize this was even a whole “thing” until a quick google search revealed its origins with Ali Edwards and that the abbreviation stood for “One Little Word.” What that One Little Word (OLW) becomes is up to the person — but you select a word to become your focus or goal for a given year.
As I read, I began to realize that most of the OLWs were geared around the calendar New Year. A different way of setting a resolution I suppose. The problem of course is that it is July and while this writing challenge was asking me to reflect — I didn’t even have a word yet and the year was half-way over.
(We won’t even get started on what kind of year it’s been. I am sure you know all too well.)
While it may not be New Years Day, I did quickly realize that we were approaching a different kind of new year: the start of the 2020-2021 school year. And instead of picking a general OLW to apply to my life, I wanted to instead think about my intentions going into this new school year, because as I’m sure you’re all aware…no matter what happens (in-person, hybrid, or virtual) it’s going to be a doozie.
That still left me with the ultimate question: How do I pick just ONE word?
A Little Selection Process
Now that I understood what an OLW was, I figured the next thing I needed to do was take a peek at how other writers’ had come to select their word. After all, I had two advantages. One, that many people have already selected their OLW and posted about it. And two, the project has apparently been around for YEARS now. I’ll say this, it was definitely interesting seeing what OLWs people selected back in January 2020 knowing now where we would end up.
After browsing Edwards’ site a bit, I returned to Google and started poking around for inspiration. As usual, Two Writing Teachers had some blogs I could sift through and see other teachers’ words . I also looked at one blog that had a 150+ list of words to consider. I started jotting down words that spoke to me on some level about how I wanted to approach my school year. Words like “hope,” “adapt,” and “gentle” were all contenders.
Ultimately though, I wanted to pick a word that was fun and that would remind me to smile or, even better, laugh. So that’s the word I went with: laugh.
A Little Laugh
We all know this is going to be a difficult year for many reasons. When I think back on what has gotten me through it so far, it’s moments when I’ve allowed myself to see the humor in situations, to experience brief episodes of joy, when I’ve just LAUGHED.
I was further encouraged to pick this word when I looked into the definitions for laugh and the following three spoke to me about what it was I was looking for in the coming months or what I felt I was lacking now sometimes.
Laugh (verb) : (1) to show emotion (i.e. joy) with a chuckle or explosive vocal sound, (2) to find amusement or pleasure in something, (3) to be of a kind that inspires joy.Merriam-Webster
If I needed those things, I knew for sure that my students would as well. That more or less sealed it for what word I wanted to bring into my classroom. Everything is so dark and serious right now, why not focus on the light and the joy. Along with the goals I will get into shortly, I also plan to bring this exercise and discussion into my own classroom — ask my students what words they want to make their own this year and ask them for help with my own. I think this will lend itself to some great community building in the classroom.
After all, it’s not like my classroom has ever been 100% serious — that’s just not who I am — but now more than ever we need to take time to look for the joy in life. I need to allow myself time to celebrate any moment that makes me chuckle. I need to intentionally seek out words and images that make me giggle. I need to honor my classroom as a place where we can find joy.
As the song goes, girls just wanna have fun…even in the middle of a pandemic!
A Little Goal
I have a lot more to explore with this OLW. I’m only now getting started on my journey with this word after all. However, I will end this particular blog by setting my goals and intentions for this word — one month from supposedly returning to the physical classroom.
I would like to elaborate on these goals, as I think it’s important to be clear with my intentions here. I am exploring the OLW of “laugh” because I think it will help me refocus this school year so I am not stuck in a negative mindset. I think if I know I am trying to write a blog a month, pay attention to joys, and intentionally pick up comedic texts that I have made myself more accountable and likely to stick with this project. If I can write more than one blog a month — great. But one thing I’ve learned about goal setting is to be reasonable. I think the blogs will depend a lot on the two goals that follow anyway.
The concept of recording daily joys was introduced to me in a writing challenge I participated in that had us paying close attention and looking out for the little things in life that delighted us and brought us joy (inspired by Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights — I haven’t read, but probably need to given my OLW). I hope to keep that habit going and focus on something students say/do/write — after all this is a word I am tying to my school year.
Ultimately I just want to make sure I am purposefully seeing out light-hearted moments in my days as this pandemic only gets worse. What made me laugh? If I didn’t laugh, what made me at least chuckle or smile on a given day? Those can eventually feed into my blogs as I track them in my notebook(s).
And if I don’t smile that day? Well, that’s when I can follow up by intentionally seeking out “texts” that are rife with humor or comedy. I use the word “texts” in quotes because really anything can be a text for this: a meme, a one-line dad joke, an episode of a sitcom, a comic strip, or even a humorous book!
As I write this, I’ve already started collecting quotes in my notebook about laughter and gathering books and podcasts to check out that can maybe make me laugh. This is me being intentional and collecting ideas for future blogs (see? I told you the blog goal would be dependent on this part of the journey).
I’m excited to explore this series, not just with you all but also with my students. I think having them go through this process of selecting their own OLW will be highly beneficial and help us build a community — no matter what space that community occupies.
As famous comedian and co-founder of Monty Python once said: