a quote from my favorite author

“The most solid advice, though, for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

-William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


One group asks to meet in the stairwell.
One group asks to meet in the hallway, just around the corner.
One group asks to meet in the office with the glass wall.
One group asks to meet in the computer lab
where I can still see them through the windows. 
Two groups meet at tables on opposite ends of the long room.

Each group begins with one student reading a story. 
His story. 
Her story. 
Each listener takes a turn sharing a plus.
Each listener takes a turn sharing a delta.
Each writer collects the feedback on post-it notes
to turn into the hard work of revising,
the hard work of seeing their words with new eyes.

One group reports to me that one member doesn’t want to share. 
His story is too sad.
Before I can swoop in to solve their dilemma
they share their own solution.
“We are each going to write our own sad story this weekend.
So he feels better about sharing,” they tell me.
And they do.
There are lots of tears today when they meet again.
They walk away
talking about how cancer sucks.

One group comes in search of tissues. 
One member is crying. 
And it turns out tears are contagious
amongst teenage girls.
I drop by to check in.
“Don’t worry,
these are good tears. 
It just feels so good
to finally share my feelings with someone.”
They walk away
talking about how fathers sometimes let us down.

One group is filled with silly guys
who transform into serious writers
behind a glass wall.
They walk away
talking about what it means to grow up.

One group loses a member
who comes to tell me
she cannot
will not
no matter what
Her eyes say,
“my story is not worth sharing.”
My eyes say,
“this will be the year.
You will share.
You will stop living behind the wall.”
“I like the wall.”
“The others deserve to know you.”
After a lot of head shaking,
she finally shares
with her teacher
and one other group member.
It is a start.
She walks away believing
her story was worth sharing.

Two groups get right down to business.
Writers share.
Others respond as listeners, as writers, as readers, as friends.
They walk away
talking about how high school just won’t be the same
how older brothers can be cool sometimes
how magic hides inside the covers of books waiting to be discovered
how good it feels to push yourself to the limit in sports
how grandmas are to be cherished
how important it is to always kiss your mom goodbye

Six groups of writers
see their words with new eyes.
Six groups of writers
see each other with new eyes.
Six groups of writers
see themselves with new eyes.

Six groups of writers grow.


  1. You amaze me, Christy. What inspiration, & it also makes me sad, because I don't have that connection anymore because I'm out of the classroom. However, in other ways, perhaps I can touch more students. I don't know. But I do hear in your classroom such trust & liveliness, even in the sadness. Good, good for you!

  2. Oh, Christy! I stopped by SOL Tuesday for a pick-me-up after a very challenging day in Kindergarten. Your title was intriguing. And I'm so glad (through my tears) that I was able to read it. You seem to have that knack to know when to nudge, wait, listen, talk, suggest....Teaching is such an intricate tapestry we weave. Teaching writing can be such an intimate experience. I can be both humbled and almost unable to breathe with joy when students dig deep and begin to move beyond the mechanics into really writing. And even five year olds have that jump when they find their voice is able to share beyond the superficial "I love my mom. I love my dad." Thank you for sharing this bit of high school with us today.

  3. And this is why I look at my district mandated curriculum using the state units, and I wonder who am I becoming in this Common Core Era where all my writing is based on textual evidence and none of my writing is based on the text of life and making meaning out of life through words. If students make meaning from text but not from life, we will find they might be able to analyze everything but their own lives.

    1. Maya, this is so wise. "...they might be able to analyze everything but their own lives." Wow. That's hitting the nail on the head.

  4. Christy, this is such an awesome way to share. I'm going to use this with my new creative writing classes next semester right from the beginning. And with my freshmen on Monday! I seem to be having problems making sharing time this year. I have several groups that formed naturally on their own and they share all the time. But I have this group of boys.....if I could get them into a group with others and use this formula, it just might work!

    As always, thanks for sharing your teaching wisdom!

    Loved Ruth's reflections on being in your classroom. It sounded just like I expected. I love the mantra for Voices Strong. Those kids are so lucky you believe in them.

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  5. It seems like magic, but I know hard work went into developing this magic. Said it before and I will say it again, those kids are so lucky to have you in their lives. I am thankful for teachers like you. Absolutely beautiful!

  6. As I read through this, I started thinking more like a mom and thought how much I wish my daughter had been in a class like this when she was in high school. This is the kind of teaching and learning all students should have access to. Imagine the difference it would make!

  7. Pure awesomeness with you leading, guiding, hand holding, suggesting, encouraging, allowing, creating . . . the opportunities of choice engages students and they in turn become the teachers to each other. A picture perfect moment of "distinguished" - Danielson Framework of Teaching.

  8. Sometimes, after I read your posts, I wish I were a teacher of older children. I will have to live my "big kid" teaching life through you. You make it seem so fulfilling.

  9. just awesome! Could you share some more about how you created this environment? I've been trying to get there with my ELL students but they're not quite there yet!

    Also, I gave you a "Liebster Award" -- you can see the description on my post tonight.