Another Saturday, and I can breathe and celebrate after the first three weeks are down in the books. There are lots of other celebrations here. Thank you Ruth for reminding me to follow a path of gratitude.
Starting off the year with fourth grade writers is always daunting for me. I am faced with such little people! The memory of the ten and almost-ten-year-olds I wrote with for nearly ten months is still fresh from June, and the overgrown third graders that are sitting in their seats are so, well, new. I know where we are going, but I feel paralyzed and unsure how to get going. Weird, huh? Every year.
I tackle it by jumping into conferring right away. Easier to say than to actually do. Almost no one can write yet without turning and talking to their neighbors. And we did that, yep. If I let them get away with chatting during the writing time of writers workshop, it sets up a difficult to break habit. Writing is so much easier when it’s quiet. They get it. But they don’t know how to do it. So, it’s a conference interrupted by lots of quick-trips to tables to remind the team that we are writing, not talking. Getting them to remind each other helps too, but early in the year that often takes the form of whiney and loud shushing that adds to the noise. We are not yet a well-oiled machine. We aren’t even poorly oiled. Heck, we are missing big pieces of machinery – forget about the oil.
This week I am grateful to one of my writers for giving me hope and reminding me in her sparkly-eye-way that this situation will get better. We will become writers capable of great and small things. We will. I could see that she had an idea for her personal narrative involving something with our local Boys and Girls Club.
“So, what are you working on right now?”
“I am writing a story about how great the Boys and Girls Club is. It was so much fun this summer. We had lots of fun trips. We made crafts. I went there every week and played games too. I love it. It is a great place to be in the summer.”
“You are already writing an essay! Oh my goodness, we haven’t even tackled that and you already have an idea for one. You are so ready to do that kind of writing. Can we put that solid idea for a thesis on hold for a minute, until next month actually, and try to find a story in it? Can you think of a one-time story you could tell about something that happened this summer at the Boys and Girls Club?”
She got a big smile on her face, and looked just over my shoulder, as if she was seeing it all again. “Yes, I can. I can think of something really good. And…” She paused, looked straight at me, and I swear her eyes twinkled. “Something really amazing happened. A really amazing thing.”
I shivered like any hot-blooded writing teacher would. Holy smoke, a really amazing thing? This was so easy!
“What was that amazing thing?”
A pause. It stretched out a few heartbeats. Then a few more.
“I kind of forgot.”
I tried really hard not to laugh, or flinch, or let out the breath I was holding. I wonder if I was successful with the breath thing.
“You forgot the really amazing thing?” I said with as much natural curiosity as I could muster.
“Yes, I did.” Big smile. Her eyes looked right into mine. A flash of guilt but also a look of confidence. As if to say: “It’s there, I just have to remember it.” Most importantly, she knew it could be there, even should be there, and with just a little time and encouragement, it would be there.
A little patience, maybe a lot, and it will be an amazing thing.