Let Their Writing Take Your Breath Away

Last week I was selecting some student writing to share with participants of the Conferring in Writing Seminar I’m leading at Penn State Harrisburg tomorrow.  I didn’t want to go down to my basement, which is where I store most of my former students’ writing samples.  Therefore, I decided to go through my electronic files instead.

During the years I was in Rhode Island, I made a concerted effort to scan and save a lot of my students’ writing on to my computer.  However, when the unthinkable happened in 2009 (i.e., The laptop I used in the classroom, which my husband began using as his PC when we moved to Pennsylvania, died.  The hard drive had to be re-imaged, which meant I lost all of the student work I had scanned from 2007 – 2009.), I lost two year’s worth of scanned writer’s notebook entries, in-process writing, and published writing.  For some deranged reason, I never paid for Carbonite on my school laptop, which meant I lost everything I didn’t have have hard copies of forever.

I have a small amount of student work saved electronically on my home computer, which I thankfully back-up on a regular basis.  I was looking for a specific student’s memoir, which I was unable to find.  I grew frustrated, but instead found something else written by him instead.  I clicked on the document, which was saved under the title of  Mentored Poem by C…  I had no recollection of what I would find when I double clicked on the document.  But I quickly had my breath taken away when I read it.  It was a poem called “The End” and was mentored after the free verse poetry in Sharon Creech’s Heartbeat.  The poem, which is about what he imagines his final days on Earth will be like as an old man, contained two footnotes.  The poem’s images are vivid and the footnotes were so expertly done I was struck by his ability to mentor himself after Creech.  I must’ve made a lot out of the poem when the student wrote it in his notebook nearly four years ago since he chose to revise it for his poetry portfolio.  (I typed it up for him at home, since he didn’t have a home computer, so he could proudly display it proudly in his Poetry Portfolio.)  Four years later, I am moved by the writer’s vulnerability and honesty in his poem.

Have you allowed yourself to have your breath taken away by a piece of student’s writing lately?  Please share a bit about what a student has done to move you through their writing.