When I was in the 8th grade, I was given a special award for creative writing. My wonderful English teacher, Mrs. Mosiman, stepped forward at the school assembly and presented me with this medal; the first time it had ever been given.
She believed in me. My 14-year-old ideas were still forming, and to read my adolescent musings today would probably make me cringe and yet, back in 1976, she saw something.
I teach Science to two 6th graders. One of them is a little boy so eager to learn and do well, but who struggles in nearly every aspect of academics. His writing is extremely difficult to read and his ability to put words together is on a level much lower than his age would suggest.
Yesterday I gave him a journal; a blank book with lined pages and a bright, colorful cover. In it, I told him, he could express his thoughts and feelings, write about his day or tell stories. My one rule was that he never write anything mean or hurtful about someone else. He took it eagerly, immediately putting it in his backpack and promising to write in it faithfully.
Today, as soon as he walked in our classroom, he brought it over to me with a smile, showing me how he had filled the first page with Science news, home activities and a story about a blanket given to him by his grandmother. Though his words were still difficult to read, they were much better and fit easily between the lines. In the school setting, he dislikes writing and feels stressed while doing it. I had hoped that if he chose to write about things he liked, his penmanship would improve and he would see that there is joy in written expression.
He comes from a harsh background and his home life leaves a lot to be desired. School - and his teachers there - are a security and a safe haven. We care about and want him to succeed, despite the odds that are against him.
A little book with lined pages is just a small step. If nothing else, perhaps it will allow him a place to go - a quiet, reflective world - when his own is out of focus. But I hope that as the years go by and time moves on, he will look back and remember that there was someone who wanted to see him succeed. Someone, who believed.