I am sure that most of you feel the same way that I do -- a little disappointed that we are not all together in Colorado. I was so looking forward to meeting you all in person and getting to know you face to face. I sincerely hope to meet you all in person one day.

My name is Bethany Thomas. Some of you might know me from DPL 2017 and DPL 2018 (if you took a ride in the DigiCart to eat lunch, I was one of the girls blasting music and dancing). In 2017, I worked for DPL because I was a Student Aide for Jesse Stommel and Martha Burtis (two of the coolest people on the face of the planet) at the University of Mary Washington. In 2018, after I graduated with my undergraduate degree in Creative Writing, I was lucky enough to attend the lab. It was a wonderful experience, and I am so happy to be back attending DPL and to also have the honor of teaching this workshop.  

Jenn (left) and me in 2017 when the DigiCart was born. 

A little bit about me: I am a Florida native, now living back in my hometown of Tallahassee. I work at Florida State University College of Law as the Writing Specialist, where I primarily help first year law students with their writing and grammar skills. I married my husband when I was nineteen, and we moved around for a few years while he served as a Hospital Corpsman in the Navy. Right before he got out of the Navy, we had our first baby, Katarina. She just turned one this past May, and she is already Miss Independent. She enjoys roaring like a dinosaur and chasing after animals. We also have two giant dogs - one German Shepherd and one Dutch Shepherd/Lab Mix (who we lovingly refer to as our horses) - and a frisky, geriatric cat who only has three teeth left.

I have always wanted to do a little bit of everything in my life - I love science, I love art, I love being outside, I love anatomy, I love true crime - and though my interests have changed a lot throughout my life, my passion for writing has always stuck with me.

I am a writer. I am not published, but I am still a writer. Writing is in my blood. I can't remember a time when I wasn't writing something or working on a story of some kind. I have written two screenplays and am in the process of writing my third. I did my senior seminar at UMW in Creative Nonfiction, which has led me to write a lot of nonfiction and small memoirs in my spare time. As a young girl, awkward teen, and then young woman, I have written the beginning and middle of many novels which I never completed. One day, I swear. Truthfully, my writer's block and hesitation about whether my writing is "good enough" is a large part of what gave me the idea for the Bringing Imagination to Teaching workshop.

As a struggling writer (I truly don't know a better way to phrase it), I often times reminisce on the days where writing came naturally to me. I fondly remember writing and writing until my hands cramped and not caring what my story was about or if anyone liked it or ever even read it!

Me and baby Kat on a stroll.

In order to strengthen our imaginations for our writing and our teaching, I ask that as we begin this workshop that you try and remember your very early years when you were in pre-school, or stayed home with a parent, and when you entered kindergarten and first grade. You'll see why!

When imagining this workshop, I envisioned that it would be very close-knit. I wanted to bring us back to our early childhoods, where classes took place on the ground in large circles, before we had to type on computers, before we worried about assignments and deadlines, before all of the general worry and stress set in.

One of my first memories of a classroom was when I was in kindergarten. Ms. Bev, our teacher, an older woman with sandy hair and thin glasses, sang “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” first in English and then in Spanish. Around the circle, my classmates clumsily sang the lyrics in between gap-toothed smiles and spurts of wild giggles. My best friend always sang the Spanish lyrics the best, and I listened carefully for her to unknowingly lead me through the song.

We did most of our activities that way - in our large circle, facing each other. We read books in our circle, we colored on bright pieces of construction paper, played with blocks, examined insects...the list goes on. But we did it all right there on the ground, together. As my classmates and I grew up, the circle seemed to fade away more each year. More and more often, we sat at rigid desks and stared at whiteboards or projector screens. We found ourselves giggling less and focusing more on arithmetic and literature and biology. We barely wrote longhand at that point. Our assignments and essays and even our creative work was done on the computer.

I think that all of this took a toll on our creative minds.

In this workshop, I want us to explore going back to our childhoods where there were no limitations to our imaginations. I’ve watched in awe as my daughter has gone from this tiny, squishy newborn who barely moved to an adventurous, talkative, imaginative toddler. I constantly wonder what she is thinking, what she is creating in her mind, and how she sees the world around her. I wish I could have an ounce of the imagination that she must have right now!

My goal is for us to return to our purest creative states. If we return back to grade school, back to when things were simpler and our imaginations ran free, I hope that will allow us to add more creativity in our writing and in our classrooms, whether you are teaching college-level biology or teaching first graders how to write sentences. We can all use more creativity and imagination no matter where or what we teach (or how old we are).

When I was brainstorming about how I wanted to teach this workshop online after talking with the amazing Sean Michael Morris, I decided that I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t write out whatever came to my mind on paper.

So, I broke out my yellow legal pad. I read a long time ago that yellow paper was good for the brain and it helped you to retain information, so I always have some yellow paper on hand. And then I picked out two colors to write in, because one fun color wasn’t good enough for me.

And then I sat down on my couch with a cup of coffee and my two dogs beside me, and I just wrote what came to my mind about writing, imagination, and creativity:

Doubt had a large part to do with my imagination and creativity dwindling down. Once we become a part of a more structured classroom in order to expand our minds, do we also eventually lose a large chunk of the imagination that helped us learn so much when we were little? Was it the opinion of others that made us stop our art, or our writing, or any other hobby? Why? No matter the cause(s), where did it go? And how do we get it back?

In this workshop, we will do some simple writing exercises, we will have discussions, we will free-write, we will imagine, we will create, and we will remember the importance of how it felt to be a kid with a limitless imagination.

Here is our loose schedule:

Introduction Post - Monday

Blog Post 1: Writing Like a Kid - Tuesday

Blog Post 1 Discussion - Tuesday

Blog Post 2: Free Write - Wednesday

Blog Post 2: Discussion & Farewell - Wednesday

I look forward to getting to know you all and letting out imaginations and creative minds run free.

Thank you so much for choosing to take my workshop!

-Bethany

~ Read next post in Bringing Imagination to Teaching ~

Blog Post 1: Writing Like a Kid

Posted by Bethany Thomas

3 min read