Teaching is a very demanding profession. I know parents and friends agree, because I am often told, “Oh, I don’t know how you do it all day with a room full of ten year olds.” I laugh and nod, but you know what? I love it. What makes it worthwhile is the light in the eyes of a student who has discovered that they can master multiplying decimals or sequence events in the Revolutionary War or analyze a piece of literature. Or write.
This year my students wrote novels for National Novel Writing Month in November. I signed up immediately when I found out about NaNoWriMo, and only thought about involving my students afterwards. Initially, my motives were selfish. Maybe if the students were writing in class, I could work on my own novel. I broached the idea to the class, and it lit them on fire. In two days they were all signed up online.
We wrote through the month of November and all 31 of them finished their novels. I finished mine, too. Full of pride, we published an anthology of their stories that also included the first chapter of mine. And that was just the beginning.
I will never forget the day I brought the 654 page published book to class and handed it to them. With reverent hands, they picked up their book. They were (and are) published authors.
Then the school library suggested we put a few copies on the shelf for students to check out. It wasn’t too much longer before the librarian told them there was a long waiting list of students who wanted to check out their book and could she please have four or five more copies? That light in their eyes still burned. They were proud.
Today we went on a field trip to San Jose city hall. Mayor Chuck Reed and our Councilmember, Rose Herrera, presented my class with a commendation for their novel. They were perfectly behaved on their special tour of city hall, during lunch in the rotunda, and during the opening of the city council meeting. My heart swelled with pride. Afterwards, the students were giddy with excitement. So was I.
Ultimately, that is what teaching is all about. Yes, it’s important to drum facts into their heads, but it’s much more rewarding to inspire them to greatness. That is why we teach.
These students will never forget the novel they wrote in fifth grade. Many of them are already writing a sequel! They have gained immeasureable confidence in their own writing that extends to other areas. As we are fond of saying in my classroom, “We can do anything. After all, we are published authors.”
So, class, what can you add? I saw from your faces what you were feeling today. Can you put any of that in words? How about parents who were there or heard about it later? What did today’s commendation mean to you?
On my Kindle: Tiger by Jeff Stone (okay, this is a hard copy, not on Kindle)
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