I’ve been neglecting my blogging life these past few weeks. As much as I have been itching to write, my adult self (you know…the responsible one) knew I needed to adhere to the old “business before pleasure” adage. The business being correcting 110+ 6th grade personal narratives and 110+ journal responses, and writing 110+ report card comments.
Despite this occasional overwhelming amount of correcting, I continue to absolutely love teaching middle school language arts! You may remember this post, where I wrote about the internal conflict I felt when wrestling with the decision to leave elementary school. I am happy to say, I am conflict free!
As I conferenced with students about their personal narratives, I was reminded of just how connected I am to my students. Many shared personal parts of their lives with me. Far too many wrote about their parents’ divorce, many wrote about a time in their life when they experienced failure, some wrote about the death of a pet, and tragically, one wrote about the death of his father. I felt truly honored that they shared these intimate moments with me. Several papers brought tears to my eyes.
(Now don’t get me wrong, there were also plenty papers that made me laugh. And not necessarily because they were funny.)
Anyway, the best part of our study of personal narrative was “Author’s Chair”, when students shared their writing with the rest of the class.
The night before “Author’s Chair”, I started to feel somewhat uneasy with the content of some of their personal narratives. As many students wrote about very personal times in their life, I decided to give them the option of sharing a different piece of writing. After all, these were 6th graders. Middle schoolers are not always the kindest to each other. And “Author’s Chair” involves peer feedback.
Turns out I didn’t need to worry. As student after student shared, I became more and more impressed with the feedback they were giving each other. No matter how well the paper was written, no matter how popular the author was, there were always hands up eager to compliment the writer. Most of the compliments focused on the skills I taught over the course of the study. But a few comments went much deeper than that.
Imagine Brian, an overweight boy with little writing confidence, and few friends, sharing his story about his dad’s death. Imagine his voice breaking as he shared the following:
My dad was addicted to alcohol and he died from that and that is a lesson…to never drink because it might kill me…He knew he was doing something wrong and he couldn’t stop because it was an addiction. ..My mom said, “he was a wonderful man,” and that she misses him very much.
I was afraid to look at the class, as I wasn’t doing a very good job of keeping my tears in check, and I wasn’t sure anybody was going to respond. And Brian desperately needed somebody to respond. When I finally got the courage to look up, I was overwhelmed. Almost everybody in class had their hand up. Some had tears in their eyes. And the first person Brian chose to compliment him said this…
“You made me feel. And good writers touch the hearts of others.”
Well said, Jasmine. Well said.
The warmth I felt in the classroom at that moment was incredible. I was so incredibly proud of my class!
And now, I want to share the beverage that kept me going while in the midst of hundreds of pages of correcting. It has become my new addiction. This recipe is based on a recipe by Kathy Patalski of Healthy.Happy.Life. It makes me feel all warm and cozy inside. Much like I felt the day Brian shared his story.
After blending, place in a pot with 4 cups of water. Throw in a cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
1 1/2 T. fresh ginger, chopped
6 cups water, divided
1 cinnamon stick
2 lemons, juiced
1 apple, cored and chopped
4 shakes of cayenne pepper
2 T. sweetener (honey, maple syrup, agave)
Put chopped ginger in 2 cups of water and blend. Add this mixture to a pot with 4 cups of additional water. Put in cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes.
Place lemon juice, apple, cayenne, and sweetener in blender. Add ginger mixture. Cool a bit, then blend. Strain out chunks. Drink immediately, or store in fridge! This can easily be rewarmed.