Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Writing Wednesday: Learning from my Students

Today I had the honor of attending a lunch for a local business club in town. Every spring they have a essay writing contest. The students at our middle school are invited to write to a prompt. They judge the essays that are entered and pick one winner per grade level. The winners and their teachers attend the lunch where the students read their essays to the group.

As I sat in this room today at the head table, I looked across at the three students waiting to speak. The sixth grader I met for the first time when we sat down. The seventh grader is, obviously, my student. The eighth grader was in my class as a fifth grader and a seventh grader. All three girls were nervous, though it was not obvious. I thought back to just over a year ago when I sat in the same luncheon, waiting to tell the group about a reading challenge we were having in the community. I was a basket case. These girls reminded me that I need to relax just a bit.

The sixth grader had to speak first. She dedicated her essay to her three-year-old cousin and began, weaving humor and figurative language throughout her essay. This group of business folks were laughing out loud as she spilled stories, taking us along with her on a summer day. I was mesmerized.

My student had crafted a story of bravery. It was an ordinary summer day that asked her to step outside of her comfort zone. Knowing her, knowing her family, this story was important. She is the middle child in a family of nine kids. I loved that she had this moment in the spotlight. She is quiet, but fierce. Watching her deliver her story, I knew she would be going places one day.

And the eighth grader got up and I was transported. We watched a lot of spoken word poems last year, specifically we saw several from Sarah Kay. This student emulated that, I say without knowing if that was her intention. Her essay was in the form of a poem, filled with love, pain, fear, loneliness, anger, life. I teared up several times and I saw her do that too. She took my breath away.

When they were done, I sat back in awe. These kids, at eleven, twelve, and thirteen, they got it. They found the magic of writing and others connecting with your writing. They were brave enough to share that writing with others, even though it can be scary. Some of them wrote about the best of times, some wrote about ordinary days, and some wrote about hard truths. They were beautiful and brave. They reminded me of the power of putting pen to page and the beauty that can come out of sharing your story.

In short, they reminded me of why I write. I was humbled. I was, I am, inspired.