Last Wednesday Danielle and I moved everything out of our office. A steady stream of staff, parents and kids stopped by to ask if we were moving. No, just clearing out decades of accumulated stuff (mine) to make a new space for the next version of the Seed’s leadership. We stripped the walls, moved book cases out and then back in, shifted the big filing cabinet to a nearby closet, and cleaned. By Friday, the process was mostly completed. It was a big purge for me. One of the remaining tasks was sorting through my old files, particularly those related to teaching writing. The ease I felt with letting go of stuff suddenly shifted. My writing files contained a deep personal history.
Mostly my teaching of writing files were full of plastic overhead transparencies, which I haven’t used for several years. The transparencies held poetry of children now in their twenties and thirties, all wonderful examples of poems overflowing with metaphor, simile, line breaks and beautiful words. Tossing all that plastic in the trash was hard, too. I salvaged the sheets that could be repurposed, took some deep breaths, and let the rest go. There were a few I will scan and save electronically, while others will stay with me as part of a bound collection. As I discarded min-lessons and paper documents, I thought of individuals and groups who had been a part of writing circles throughout my teaching career. I wondered how much of our work has remained with them in their adult lives. Certainly there are some who are still writing and have made it a part of their work in the world. Considering these thoughts about writing, it came to me that it’s more than words on the page. There was something that came forth from the heart that reinforced our community and individual feelings of self-worth that I see every time I work with a group of young writers. In fact, I saw it again on Wednesday.
I’ve written recently about the heart map project with the 3rd/4th graders (https://www.awakeningseedschool.org/2016/01/heart-maps/). The heart maps opened up a floodgate of poetry and we took time this week to share their unpublished work. Each child came to the circle with his/her writer’s notebook. One by one they shared a piece of writing that stood out to them, saying why they selected it. As each child shared his/her lines, other members of the group respectfully gave feedback and encouragement. Their growth as poets and reflective learners was astonishing. In the midst of this sharing, I told the kids I’d been going through layers of poetry written by other students just like them. I said I hoped they’d remember this time of writing together and carry it with them into their lives. One of the shared poems expressed this so beautifully:
My brain is like a circle full of school thoughts.
I like school thoughts because I’ll get good grades.
I want to get good grades because
I’ll go to college and study for tests and work.
I want to go to college because I’ll get a job.
I want to get a job so I can be a teacher and
remember old times as a kid in school with a brain.
I feel confident that the majority of the heart map poets will continue filling their writer’s notebooks long into their futures. Their pages will be filled with memories of “old times as a kid in school with a brain” at the Seed, as well as heartfelt impressions of their lives and dreams.