Monday, January 24, 2011

Why I Love Teaching

A few weeks ago after writing club, one of my students hung back after everyone had left, offering to help me clean up. I could tell she wanted to talk about something, but couldn't find the words, so I got her started.

"How are you liking being a photographer for the Journal?"
"It's good," she said. "I chose that because I want to learn more about photography. Plus, I'm not a very good writer."

THAT, of course, stopped me in my tracks. An 11-year-old who has already given up on writing? Not while I'm around!

"Why on earth would you think that you're not a good writer?"
"Because the stuff I've written is never as good as I want it to be."
I had to smile at that. "Trust me -- everybody feels that way about their writing! Even best-selling novelists struggle with self-doubt. But the secret to being a good writer is to just keep writing. The more you do it, the better you're going to get."

I could tell from the look on her face that she wasn't sure if she should believe me or not.

"You know, Anna, even the stuff I wrote just two years ago isn't as good as what I'm writing now. And you'll get better, too. You read a lot and that will help you become a better writer. And I think that in addition to taking photos, you should try your hand at writing an article for the paper."

Her eyes opened wide in surprise, but she smiled. "Do you think I can?"
"Of course you can!"

We talked about the article she would write until the bell rang. A little later, as I made my way to the parking lot, she ran up to me with a paper in her hand. "This is something I wrote for class." She ducked her head. "I thought you might like to read it."

She ran off, not waiting to see my reaction, but I sat there in my car and read the hand-written, two-page story. A story about a house with windows for eyes, a house that saw more than it should. Deliciously creepy and atmospheric, and omigosh, why did this kid think she couldn't write?

I found her after school the next day and gave her back the story. "Don't ever think you can't write, because this is brilliant."

She took the paper and smiled. "You liked it?"
"Yes I liked it! And based on this, I'd say you already are a writer."


She skipped to the car where her mom waited and I smiled for the entire weekend. Because moments like this are what make me love teaching. And believe it or not, they happen every day.

23 comments:

PurpleMist. said...

Awesome!
I'm so glad you made her believe that she could write, because that plot idea is pretty amazing :)

Angela Felsted said...

Your blog is so positive, I love reading it! And what a delightful, uplifting story. :)

Laura pauling said...

That totally brought tears to my eyes. Sometimes kids just need one positive voice telling them they can do it! And it usually can't be their parents. Great job, Sherrie.

Anna Staniszewski said...

I love this! That doubt never really goes away, does it? I had a grad. student in a writing workshop tell me she didn't think of herself as a writer. Luckily, by the end of the semester, she realized that she was one!

WindyA said...

That is awesome! What an inspiring story to share on a Monday morning :)

And what a great story premise. I think you've got a budding novelist with you there! Way to get her past that self-doubt. Brava to you for such support and to her for being brave enough to share her story with you.

Tess said...

love love love this

Jamie Grey said...

That's amazing! Thank goodness for teachers like you - I still remember the teacher who encouraged me to keep writing - 25 years ago now. I thank god for him every day!

How awesome that you could change a girl's perspective like that, Sherrie!

JEM said...

What a great story! I'll be sure to come round to your school when I need a pep talk :).

Kelly said...

Your story brought a huge smile to my face. Good for you and good for her!! :)

Kristan said...

Aww, that got me all teary. You're such a wonderful, encouraging teacher. Your students are very lucky. :)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Oh that is fabulous. I can feel the skip in her step as doors open ahead of her. Bravo to you!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I love that you shared this with us. You're right - those are the moments that make me happy to be a teacher, too! :-)

Christina Lee said...

THIS is just made of all kinds of awesome! I was choked up for that girl--I bet you made her whole month too!

Krispy said...

Love this story, and you sound like an awesome teacher. I've had teachers who have encouraged me to write too, and I will always be grateful to them for their guidance and support. :)

Caroline Starr Rose said...

I didn't know you were still teaching! This is just beautiful, Sherrie.

lotusgirl said...

Fabulous story. I loved that about teaching. There are things I don't miss at all, but I do miss that part.

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

You may have just changed this child's life, my dear. What an inspirational story!! Imagine her now, excepting her Pulitzer. And she will say, It's all because of Mrs. Peterson...

Stina Lindenblatt said...

What a wonderful story, Sherrie.

Where were you when I was eight and wanted to be a writer? I thought the same as your student. Only I had a long way to go before I got to her level.

Susan R. Mills said...

That is so great! You are an amazing teacher.

Lenny Lee* said...

hi miss sherrie! wow i could love that story cause for sure i could know how she felt for not feeling she could be a writer. its cause of really neat and nice people just exact like you that i could believe in my writing and didnt get stopped. thanks for being a really cool and caring teacher. for sure you rock!
...big hugs from lenny

Suzanne Casamento said...

Awww. That story got me misty eyed. You're the coolest teacher ever.

Shari Green said...

Oh that is the coolest thing! Thank god for great teachers (like you) who take the time to build kids up.

I loved this post. Thanks for sharing! :)

Lori W. said...

I teared up. Not kidding. Teachers have a huge impact. Who knows what fruit this seed you planted will bear, but for that moment, as she skipped to the car, she believed you, and she'll probably remember you telling her she was a writer for the rest of her life. I remember those teachers. AWESOME story.

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