Over the summer I heard a few times from one of my former students from the Third Grade Writer’s Circle group I have led as a volunteer for the last six years. She was a particularly precocious writer and has continued to send me bits and pieces of her writing since she was in my group two years ago.
This is one example of the many things I love about having a student writing group. Sometimes you are able to really connect with students on a level that transcends teacher-student. It is kind of like a mutual admiration society. Her continued interest in the craft of writing validates my efforts as a group leader, writing role model, and approachable educator. We respect each other. I have admiration for her self-directedness and continued love of learning, as well as her persistence in an area of education – language arts – that can be difficult at times. This relationship exists to some extent with most of the students I have contact with and I know I am lucky to experience it. I feel it is a treasure I have been given; it is a treasure that needs protecting.
Although I want my writer’s club students to learn conventions as well as satisfy their need for creativity, and offer a fair amount of constructive criticism in order to encourage their learning, I am careful as to how I go about it. I am fortunate that I am able to assess and evaluate without placing a grade on the students’ work. The group of students I have are either already good at writing, really like writing, or both. It is truly a joy to work with them. The only time we have some trouble is when assigned work does not get finished prior to our group meeting. In that case, I am left fighting the popular perennial excuse of “I didn’t have enough time”, even though they had a week to do an assignment that should have taken less than 20 minutes. Soon enough, the students learn that this, or any version that amounts to the work not being done, does not work on me.
But, I digress. I recently received another piece of writing from this student and due to some personal circumstances have yet to respond to her. I plan to do that today. I miss having my student writers. Yet, I told the teachers for whom I hold this group that we could not start meetings until January this year. I am trying to distance myself from the school building in which I was a very active (probably, overcommitted, is more accurate) volunteer for the last 17 years. It is somewhat difficult as I live very close to the school; I feel that if my car were to have an auto-pilot, it would automatically go into the school’s parking lot!
But, in the course of the last few years, I have felt increasingly undervalued. (If this is too ambiguous for you, I encourage you to look back through my previous blog posts on volunteerism.) So, I made a decision to stop donating so much of my time to a building and staff that just did not seem to care if I was there or not. Other than having to fight for a “space” in which to have our Writer’s Circle meetings (which developed in the last three years and I have never understood), these feelings do not really apply to this group, but are more generally associated with being in the building itself.
In truth, it has been easier than I thought it would be to not go over to school to weed, send out communications for garden club, prepare a garden club lesson, put up a bulletin board, or even have writer’s circle. But, it is only late September. School has not even been in session for an entire month, yet!
I am somewhat fearful of what will happen when (and, if ) I return to hold Writer’s Circle in starting in January. The plain fact is that I love students and I love teaching. I want to be there for them. I felt their appreciation. I felt connected to them. But, the other part of the truth is that I was ready for a change and I find myself wishing there was a way to have my student group outside of the school building, because it is a building I really do not feel like entering again.
But, you know something? The students had absolutely nothing to do with my negative feelings. Seriously! So, when I hear from a former student who is freely sharing a writing sample with me for feedback, it makes me miss what I had. I will have to find a way to get back to them and doing what we both think I was good at. After all, I just bought a new book on writing! The ideas contained within will need to be tried and shared!
In the meantime, I will send my young precocious writer a note of thanks and some comments today. I know she will appreciate it! And, I appreciate her.
This post is dedicated to J.B. who continues to make me feel wanted. Thank you!