You Better Get Used to It

I had three new students in class today! Remember how concerned I was about people not showing up? I’m just happy to have them. Two students were brand new that day, but the third had shown up the day before (I was out with a dental emergency). The young woman who had come once had started to work on her essay. So when class time rolled around to doing actual writing, I asked her to show me what she had.

Y’all….her writing was like poetry written in sentences and paragraphs. It was so beautiful. I wish I could share it with you, but trust me. Her writing had depth and voice and a style all it’s own.

“This is absolutely beautiful,” I said. “It sounds like poetry.”

Everyone wanted to see it.

poetryThe class that this occurred in – my second period class – is really into the writing work that we do. We sit around a table, and when it is time to write they not only write but they talk about their writing with each other as they do it. You will hear them asking for help with spelling, or word choice, or improving upon an idea. So when I said that this young woman’s writing was beautiful, they expected it to be shared. It’s kinda what we do.

“We’ll look at your writing in a bit,” I said. “I’ll put it up on the screen so everyone can see it.”

This made everyone in the class happy except her. She blushed and said, “No.”

“No?” asked one of my guys from across the table. “No? You better get used to it ’cause that’s what we do in here. All writing is public. We share it. We talk about it. All of us. That means you. You’re gonna be with us a long time in here. Might as well get used to it.”

Don’t you love it when the students say exactly what you were going to say in the first place only better? I think it makes such a bigger impact.

Eventually, the time came. I put her first paragraph onto the screen and asked her to share with everyone what her essay was going to be about. Next, I read the sentences out loud. When I was done, everyone was quiet. Then, one girl spoke up, “Can we just bow down to you?” The students collectively did a mock bow from their seats towards her. She had brought the class to a screeching halt.

Initially, her writing garnered nothing but praise. Then, everyone got stuck. The writing was too beautiful too touch they thought. No one wanted to mess with it. But we looked at it, read it again, sat on it. Then someone popped up out of his seat and started editing it. This was followed by a few more suggestions, and then a few more. The pretty sentences kept getting prettier and prettier. We watched in amazement. Poor girl. Her first day with me, and I tossed her right in. But that’s how it goes.

At some point, the young man who had gotten onto her about sharing spoke up, “You know these are just suggestions, right? We just give each other suggestions for how to make it better. You get to decide what to do with them.”

“That’s right,” I said. There are very few things here that you HAVE to do. I cleaned up some grammar issues for you. See that spot where I took the comma out? That has to happen. A comma doesn’t go there. But all this other stuff…you’re the author…you decide.”

I swear….this particular group of students has run wild with the structure of the class, but in the best way possible. I love that they call out for help from each other when they are writing. I love that they know they can just walk right up the computer and start making edits to a sentence. I love that they are getting so good and comfortable with sharing their work.

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