In the Middle

We existed silently side by side.  He sat on a tall stool.  I stood, shoulders level, working quietly on who knows what trying to appear busy and slyly watching his progress.  He drew with percision, intentionally adding details in what seemed like random order.  As a six year old he crafted a story about knights.  Able to write himself he asked, “Mom, can you write the next sentence for me?”

As a writing teacher I wanted to say no.

As a mom, I responded, “Yes, of course I can.”

I wrote this piece as a three minute quick write during Jennifer Serravallo’s session at the International Literacy Association Conference today.  As I reflect on the day, its symbolism resounds.

Simultaneously we want to protect our children and allow them to participate fully in the world around us. But our purpose must move beyond protection to a world where young learners trust us to lead them to a place of unknowing answers.

I come from a privileged life and work in a privileged school.  I do not take for granted that he wants to write during his spare time.  I marvel at his ownership of being an author.  I am hopeful one day his actions will be precise and authentic enough to lead the world toward a better place.  In my six year old lies our future. But how do we change the motivation to write into agency and action?

After the emotional and raw panel on Disrupting a Destructive Cycle: How Literacy Drives Social Change I am moved by this position of power I was so easily brought up in.

Why do some children have the opportunity and luxury of seeing themselves as real writers at a young age and some do not?  What are the systemic actions that result in beginning first grade identifying with literacy and those that do not?  Where is the breakdown of differences?  And how can teachers and students in a position of privilege partner with other educators and students to…

…to what? 

What are the steps I can take with eight year olds to actually make change?  This is not a rhetorical question but one I am struggling with. 

So I leave you with this. As Ralph Fletcher reminded me, writing is scary and risky. So I will try to do what we ask of our students, to publish a poem of belief that somewhere there is a middle.
There is a place

in between

where randomness occurs.

Some of us have,

Some never have.

But where do we meet?

How do we grasp the randomness

enough

to find a balance

between have

And not?

Somewhere in the middle

particles float

and we teach

to place them

together.

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