Recently, as part of my facilitation of a week of EJ School (Edmonton Journal) I had organized a poetry reading and interview for a class of Grade 6 students with Kevan Lyons, the Poet of Churchill Square. When we finished, I asked them to get up off the floor where they had been sitting for the last 40 minutes spellbound by the formerly homeless poet and go the tables in the Sunshine Café at SAGE (Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton) and write.
I suggested they could start with “I just met Kevan Lyons…..”
And so, in a matter of a minute they were all seated; quiet, writing; coats and backpacks dripping off their chairs, cafeteria hum around them, friends close enough to touch elbows as they leaned on the small round tables. Quiet, writing.
After about 15 minutes, I asked the teacher if she wanted to wrap it up since the yellow bus was sitting outside the door to take them back to their school.
She said “Not yet. They’re all writing and I have students writing that have never sat this way to write all year.”
Then she took one quiet girl over and read the shy writer’s journal entry to Kevan. They formed a lovely trio, their heads bent into each other, soft smiles and Kevan listened. I had a tear in my eye, really.
Kevan’s message about how writing healed him and helps him suggest a path of healing to others is powerful.
But just as powerful is the experience of watching children carry a blank journal out into the real world, slow down to take things in and sit to write. It is one of the simple but transformation things about a site-based program and I feel privileged every time I am there to witness it.
I was prompted to write this by a blog I read this morning from Deanna Mascle. She says some very interesting things about the waste of precious time preparing for standardized testing. I agree wholeheartedly with her on that topic and most who know me hate to get me started on it.
But the words that really hooked me came near the end when she said:
"I get a little misty-eyed whenever I think about what we have accomplished together and what my students have achieved – ultimately because I remembered to feed the writer as I designed the class, assignments, and activities. Because I remembered to feed the writer, my students have achieved things they never thought possible."