Second grade classroom a little before lunch. Students writing. Teacher sitting at a kidney table with a small group of children. Air heavy in this classroom. A quiet pervades, except for the voice of the teacher with that small group. Every single student is pushing their pencil across the page. Write it down. Move the pencil. Think. Keep going.
One empty seat at one of the table groups. At the top of one child’s paper, “Chapter 3”. At the top of another, “Chapter 1”. A story about a trip to Disneyland. Words pieced together to relate one time this student pushed her sister on a swing. Someone’s pet got hurt. So many small moments that matter to these 7 year olds. Moments they want to share. Still eyes. Low lids.
“Been writing for a while?” I inquire.
“Um hum,” they nod.
“How’s it going?” I ask in my best Carl Anderson voice.
“Sometimes I get tired when I’m writing too.” I revealed to them. “Sometimes I have to take a break. Do you ever feel that way?”
Heads nod. “Yeah!” Pencils lean to the desks. Shoes shift, a little lean in. What understated but powerful acknowledgement from these writers to me, a fellow writer. We know the struggle.
“What do you do when you get tired as a writer?” I asked.
Quiet. Eyes look up. Eyes look down. A pencil is raised.
“Can I teach you something?” I ask.
“Sure,” the consensus.
“When I get tired while writing I have a couple of things I do. One is, I close my eyes and take a little mental break.” S across the table sets his pencil down, squeezes his brown eyes closed.
“Do you want to try that?” I ask. Three others close their eyes, briefly. Squeeze them shut, then open them again.
“I have some other tricks too when I get tired as a writer,” I share. “Sometimes I re-read what I have written and that helps me to write some more. Would you like to try that?”
Several kids began to reread what they have written. I rise to leave the classroom. I’m really only going to share a tip and give them a compliment. not terribly Carl of me. Just a nudge, a support, an attempt at connecting. “You are doing what writers do. You are pushing yourselves to write. Sometimes it is harder than others. I’m so glad to see that you keep going even when it isn’t easy.Why does this matter? We ask this question of our students when they write. I ask it of myself too.
This encounter matters because here are five young writers who are dedicated to continuing the work their teacher has set before them. That means there are five more people in the world who know someone believes they CAN accomplish whatever is put in front of them…even when it is hard. This teacher’s work matters. He has dedicated time for these young writers to write, to try, to struggle. So they do it. They meet his expectation. Because of this learning expectation and regular time each day dedicated solely to writing, these writers are growing their writing muscles and becoming stronger people in the process.
Yes, that matters.