Not feeling so proud of myself for missing World Book Night, I was kind of hiding on Wednesday. On top of it, two of my friends spoke with great details about the fun they had when they gave their books with other enthusiastic and dedicated givers.
As I was considering my redemption, my phone rang.
“Could you come over to help me go through my kids’ rough drafts?” my friend slash eight-grade English teacher slash neighbor asked.
She often calls her students “my kids.” I’ve found out that teachers often act, if not as parents, as guardians to many children in underserved public schools.
My neighboring middle school is surrounded by natural outstanding beauty, but it doesn’t mean that everybody’s life is picture like. Some students are living with only one parent, some with their grandparents and some with foster parents. Some have one parent or even two behind bars. Some have seen too much for their young age. Some have also good lives between great parents.
It is America, after all.
“Okay,” I told my friend slash eight-grade English teacher slash neighbor. “When would like me to stop by?”
Ooops was my immediate gut reaction.
But I remembered reading that Eleanor Roosevelt said that every day we should do something that scares us.
Every day has always seemed to me a little excessive.
But I hadn’t done anything scary since a while so I drove down the hill.
“Now,” said my friend slash eight-grade English teacher slash neighbor. “I’d like you to talk about revision.” She smiled, grabbed my elbow and led me in front of her class.
No way, impossible: you didn’t say that over the phone.
But the kids/students looked up from their papers.
That’s all it took for me to jump in, although I was unprepared. I admitted being caught off guard and they liked it.
Together we spoke on creating scenes with memorable characters, vivid setting descriptions and dialogues that move the story along. The majority of students had already completed their first draft. Their assignment was a three-page historical fiction story based on a Holocaust unit they had just finished.
Many of the stories were moving and a few exceptionnally well written.
I spent two hours at school and realized that each time I have said yes to an impromptu event, it has often been a good idea.
I also thought how lucky these students were to have a teacher who cared and was daring enough to wander off the tight California curriculum that allows so little time for creative writing.
Years and years ago, it was because of such a teacher – French in my case – that I discovered how much joy and meaning writing could bring to my young life.
Not sure that my visit to the school counted as doing something scary, I went home and polished my library presentation.
I have no idea if many people will attend – after all it is on a Saturday afternoon and we’ve got terrific weather here – or if anyone will come at all – yes, the librarian assured me, people always come.
Librarians are like teachers – always positive.
In any case, I am ready and … a little scared, too.