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GUEST BLOG POST: The Journey

Caroline Gonzalez currently works as an Instructional Support teacher for grades 1-3 in South Brunswick NJ.  After 21 years of teaching, she is completing coursework to attain an Administrator’s License.  She is the proud mother of three children who is entering a new stage in my life as she prepare to send her child off to college in Florida this fall.  She is the author of the blog, writing from the heart.  Finally, this summer she began a new summer writing journal and cannot wait to share it with her small groups.

This may seem corny for some people but every year I wonder how my former Kindergarten students have grown as writers.  When I worked with them I planted the writing seeds, nurtured those seeds with mini-lessons and conferences, and celebrated as they began to bud and flower.

As this school year closed, I came across writing pieces I had saved from several of my former Kindergarten students who were now completing fourth grade.  I invited some of them to bring a current piece of writing and meet with me during lunch.  As we met, their look of surprise was evident as I presented them with the pieces of their writing I had preserved from Kindergarten.

The following is an excerpt of the conversation I had with student “J”.
After J read her current piece of writing to me, I presented her with a copy of her Kindergarten writing.

J: (Smiling and chuckling) “Oh my gosh!  Look at this.  This is horrible.”

Me: “Why are you saying that?”

J: “Look at it.  The writing is so big, there is no punctuation, there are no details, and the beginning isn’t good.”

Me: “Wow.  It’s amazing how much you know about writing. J, as you look at this, I want you to remember that this is from Kindergarten. “

(J nods her head and chuckles.)

J:  “It looks so babyish.”

Me: “Now that you are finishing 4th grade, what have you learned about yourself as a writer?”

J:  “I love to write stories about my family.  This one in K was about my baby sister

and the one I just wrote was about my mother.”

Me:  “What have you learned about writing over these years that you can share with

others?”

J:  “Do I have to say everything?  I know a lot about writing.”

Me:  “Why don’t you share the things you believe are at the top of the list of importance about writing?”

J:  “Well, you need details, you should have good beginnings and endings, you need

punctuation, illustrations help the story, you can write about anything, everyone

is a writer, you should write everyday to grow your writing muscles, and writing

is important.”

Me:  “Wow, J, You have learned so much about writing.  I am so proud of you.  Thank

you for spending time with me. “ (I give her a copy of her K writing).   “Share this

with your family and show them how much you have grown as a writer, I bet

you will inspire your younger sister.”

J: “I can’t wait to show mom.”  (She leaves the room with a BIG smile as she holds the copy of her writing).

This is J’s writing from Kindergarten.

This is the fourth grade writing she shared with me.


 

After J left the room, I also had a BIG smile on my face because it was so rewarding to know that the seeds I had planted continued to be nurtured.

This experience made me realize I had become so busy with the demands of this profession that I was, unintentionally, missing all of the writing growth in my former students.   At that point I decided I would never let that happen again.  I wanted to continue touching base with my students as they continued their journey as writers. I can’t wait to meet with them this year.

I am trying to think of creative ways to share the journey with them.  Would you share your suggestions with us?  Maybe they will inspire others.

(By the way, the day after I met with J I saw her mother who told me how J had gone home and shared her Kindergarten writing with her family.  She posted it on a board in her room.)

7 thoughts on “GUEST BLOG POST: The Journey Leave a comment

  1. At my school, we always have students for at least two years, & occasionally three, so I have an advantage in that the student & I can return to that very beginning, & compare work two years later. The student is often so delighted to see the progress. But I’ve never thought of asking former teachers if they’d like to follow-up to see the seeds they have sown & how their former students have grown. I realize I’m thinking the opposite way than you described, but that’s because I’ve mostly taught middle-school aged students. I love what you did & will share it with our staff. The one on one meeting seems a lovely way to do this.

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  2. What a terrific idea. This would not only motivate the student but also motivate me, the teacher! Thank you for sharing! I plan to give it a try.

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  3. What an awesome experience! We share the progression from the beginning of the year to the end of the year, but I love this idea! As teachers, we want to stay connected to our students, but we usually get caught up with the group were currently working with and say “hi” to previous students as we hurriedly pass them in the hallway. I love that you took the time to meet with students and saved a writing sample! First of all, this stresses the importance that YOU put on writing and to see the growth over the years! Wow! As a reading specialist, I teach smaller groups of students. Sometimes I have the same students from year to year. I plan on experimenting with this journey. Powerful! Thank you for sharing today.

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  4. I think the way that you did it, informally and by invitation, is the best way. Sometimes we try to institutionalize a good idea and it ends up becoming rigid with lots of requirements that need to be met. When we do this we lose the immediacy and magic of the moment. What a lovely story.

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  5. Thanks for giving us a glimpse into this interaction with your former student. It sounds like it was a meaningful experience for all involved. It is nice that you saved some samples to share with them later, while also having them notice their growth as a writer.

    It seems like this was the perfect way to do a one on one share. If there was not time to check in with each student one on one then maybe you could collaborate with their current teacher(s) to do a whole-class activity. You could visit the class and as a group you could discuss writing growth and allow each student to reflect on their group as a writer. It seems like there would be many avenues for layers of discussion/reflection – individual, partner, small group, teacher-student, whole class… So many possibilities.

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