In recent weeks, I’ve been spending nearly as much time writing with kids as I have been working with teachers, and let me tell you–this is good for the soul. Particularly when I’m given the space and time to really get to know who these kids are and the gifts they bring. I’ve been teaching in some capacity for 18 years now. I can’t see myself ever giving this up, and some how, I’ve managed to find a way to work with students and teachers and administrators and often, support staff as well. I hear a lot of stories, and I find myself humbled on an almost hourly basis anymore. So, last week I had a bit of an epiphany, and I thought it might be worth sharing here. Particularly because it’s March and spirits tend to run a bit low while tensions run high.
I had the opportunity to work with a talented and fairly diverse group of middle school writers this month. I was facilitating part of a new WNY Young Writers’ Studio residency, and the purpose of this particular session was to support kids in establishing a vision and a purpose for their work as writers. One of those writers was a wicked smart young man with an affinity for math and science. His teacher invited him to hang out with us for the day even though he didn’t define himself as a writer (or maybe because he didn’t define himself as a writer). She did this despite the hefty dose of discouragement she received from others who were convinced he wouldn’t enjoy the day or find it valuable……because he is autistic.
At day’s end, this boy handed me a beautifully articulated vision of the writer he longs to be. He told me that his writing will make a significant contribution to the field of science. He told me that it will open people’s eyes and make them aware of things they did not realize before. He spoke plainly, as if it were already so. And I believe him. I know his teachers do too. Why? Because this kid is not only wicked smart…he has mad writing skills to boot.
It’s March. And in March, it’s easy to lose your faith a bit. The mountains we’re climbing suddenly seem higher, and the work to be done often feels harder. This experience was a good reminder of this simple truth: when we simply create room for what is possible rather than spending all of our energy running interference in the name of “serving kids well” we realize that many of them are already doing some pretty phenomenal thinking and learning and planning…..without our help. When we expect great things from people and withhold judgment, they often deliver. And when they do, we can learn a lot from them. And that’s more than enough to keep me going in March.
Want your own shot of inspiration? We took in this TED Talk at Communities for Learning last week. It raises some important questions about ability, disability, and the assumptions we make about those who face adversity. Timely….and worth your time.