Why I read & write

Today is NCTE’s National Day on Writing. This is a day where I can share my thoughts through writing, but lately, I have been pretty guarded. Lately, I haven’t wanted to share or write much at all. For the past 15 years, I’ve encouraged, goaded, and at times dragged my students into building their writing skills. My goal with writing instruction has always been to help them be effective communicators, to share their thoughts confidently, and hopefully, to help them achieve success through that communication.  At times, this instruction helped students find the “right” way to convey their thoughts for standardized tests, but more often this instruction focused on helping students make sense of what they read, write, view, and listen within the world around them. Thing is, I wasn’t practicing what I preached. I wasn’t writing alongside them, and I haven’t made a conscious effort to do so until this school year.

Unfortunately, my world recently turned upside down, and I haven’t turned to writing. I didn’t even read a page for almost a week. I shut down, became numb, tuned out. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by people who encourage, goad, and at times drag me out of this state — or at least do their best to keep me moving.  For today, I’m choosing to write. I’m choosing to share and to convey my gratitude for those around me who inspire, question, challenge, and uplift. I’m choosing to write to process the senselessness of life events. I’m choosing to write to demonstrate to my students how fortunate I feel to know them and to grow as a writer with them. I’m choosing to write because maybe, just maybe, this is a way to honor and to remember.

“Grief, I think, signs you up in a separate, invisible club, members selected at death’s awful randomness. ‘Gone forever’ is our password, lingering sorrow our secret handshake. If you haven’t lost someone important to you, you can’t begin to know the rules. Truth is, you don’t even know the club exists” (92).

I’ve always liked Susan Carol McCarthy‘s debut novel Lay That Trumpet in Our Hands (2002) published by Bantom Press. The young narrator Reesa has to navigate her loss amid the chaos and fear of Florida during the nine months of terror. I’ve used this text to engage students in discussions of tolerance, injustice, and grief. I just never imagined that McCarthy’s words would rise to my thoughts in my quiet house early this morning. I know that the ache I feel will soften but not disappear. I know that my memories and photographs will remind me of stories I can share. For now, though, I am just choosing to write, to reflect, and to keep a careful watch for others who are in my new club. Empathy is a skill that can be painful to learn, but it’s important for us to keep trying. So, today, I choose to write and hopefully pay forward the love, support, and kindness I’ve received in this past week.

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