Growing Wings by Hana
Getting ready to go back to school . . . I have been sorting through hundreds and hundreds of pieces of writing done by kids I have taught over the last thirty years. I am converting them from over-head transparencies into digital images, into power-point presentations, which means my house is a mess, literally littered with words, but also bursting with stories. Every single piece has a life and story behind it and a child right at the center of it. Whenever I doubt why I teach the way I do, all I need to do is look through these collections - so filled with truth and beauty. I feel incredibly sad for teachers who spend their careers having kids do worksheets, filling in blanks, marking spelling tests, etc. Hana, who was 7 at the time, a real little bird herself, drew this picture at home and brought it to school one day. I want wings just like that! I think there is a poem to go with it somewhere in those stacks of overheads on my dining room table. I am still looking for it.
Favourite Song by Lindsay
Almost twenty years ago I was teaching little children in the inner-city. Many of them were just beginning to learn the alphabet, just learning what words on paper looked like. Often their writing looked like chains of random letters. Some, like Lindsay, already knew how to leave spaces between words. One day, when I knelt beside her and asked her what she was writing, she said, "It's my mom's favourite song." And then she sang it SO sweetly: "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a ranch like me. . . " Unforgettable, really. But even more so, because it is there on the page, in writing.
Ladybug by Binh
Binh had just moved to Canada from Viet Nam the year before he began first grade. He was the little boy who once asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. He drew this picture early in the school year. He was still 5 years old, just beginning to learn English, just beginning to connect letters and sounds. It must have been one of the first snowy days in the fall - look carefully on the ground and you will see a tiny ladybug walking beside him. He wrote: "A ladybug is cold in the snow." For more than twenty years, each time I have found a ladybug in my house in the winter, Binh's words are the first that come to mind. Where is he now?