We're writing short personal essays on the kindest thing anyone has ever done for us--the Farmer's Almanac's essay topic for 2010. We'll be sending in our submissions in January.
You know, I was wondering when I was going to finally start feeling like there was a real connection between these kids and me. I was feeling guilty about missing my students from last year and resenting some of the resistance to work I've seen in this crew. I was questioning if we'd ever get into a groove. Being in writing workshop with my classes the past few days has answered my question. We're finally getting there. I have students writing about some dark, dark stuff. One witnessed the tragic death of his grandfather this summer and chose to write about the kindness of a neighbor who cared for him while his family rushed to the hospital. Another lost her mother at the age of 5--a fact of which I hadn't even been made aware until today--and writes of her father's support as she grieved. Yet another student is writing about the kindness his mother shows to him and his siblings, all of whom suffer from severe OCD and ADD.
Not all of their essays are steeped in tragedy. I have students writing about the small acts of kindness they are grateful for every day--parents who wake up extra early to make sure steaming breakfasts are ready and bus stops are not cold and lonely; coaches who offered words of solace and encouragement that stuck; doctors that saved cherished pets from any number of illnesses; fishing trips with dad.
Their truths are spilling out onto the page. They're showing me that they trust me to understand, validate, acknowledge their deepest sorrows, their most challenging struggles, and the stuff of their daily lives--the details that make up who they are, who they are becoming. I couldn't have asked for a better Christmas gift.