Marist High School English teacher Tracy Michicich took a hiatus from her teaching duties at Marist to attend a thirteen day workshop in France in September with renowned author Natalie Goldberg. Only 30 writers from around the globe were able to attend. Goldberg is best known for her series of books exploring writing as a Zen practice.
Michicich is in her eleventh year at Marist, and teaches creative writing and Advanced Placement Literature and Composition. She also co-moderates the fine arts and literary club which publishes Emergence Literary Magazine featuring Marist student writing, photography, and art.
Michicich studied Goldberg’s work as an undergraduate at Columbia College in Chicago, and through her graduate program at Regis University in Denver.
The workshop gathered people from around the world, of various ages, professional backgrounds, personal perspectives, and cultures. “Yet we felt instantly connected and supportive of each other. Natalie [Goldberg] created that bond by asking us to truly listen to each other which she says is the key to writing – listening,” Michicich explained. “I enjoyed watching her teach us, yet become one of us at the same time, giving us the freedom and space to open up and grow, but also stay focused and engaged. It gave me insight as to how to develop an even more intense sense of community in my classroom.”
Michicich especially enjoyed the group discussions about novels they were assigned to read. “To learn about the novels from the perspectives of writers just as passionate as myself, but who came from all areas of the world, with their own unique history was unbelievable,” she said. “Our conversations took a piece of literature and changed it from something fixed and concrete, into something fluid, abstract, emotional, insightful, engaging, and alive. It opened my eyes to a new set of teaching tools I could use in my classroom to engage my students and encourage their love of literature.”
Michicich is excited to implement many of the lessons and tools she gained from the workshop. “My favorite tool, that I will implement right away, is the ‘quick writing and reading sessions’ which I have adapted to fit the curriculum for the two courses I currently teach,” she stated. This includes small group work, where students write immediate responses to a quote from a reading. Then they read their responses aloud to share their insights and perspectives. This is repeated multiple times in class session.
Attending the workshop was a part of Michicich’s professional development at Marist, which is a crucial component for teachers at the school. “We want our teachers to have opportunities to continually grow and learn,” Principal Larry Tucker explained. “This directly impacts our students. We want our kids to learn from adults who access the best practices available, and who continue to fuel their passion for teaching by being life-long learners themselves.”