I just returned from NCTE 2016 and it was, of course, amazing in every way. The NCTE Annual Conference is a once in a lifetime experience except it happens every year. My personal highlight was the speech by author Brad Meltzer during the general session on Sunday morning. I arrived with coffee in hand and found some friends to sit with. Brad soon took the stage and for the next hour, I was captivated. Brad spoke of legacies and gratitude and family. I wiped the tears from my eyes.
Brad also told us about his former English teacher who spoke the three words that forever changed his life: You can write. Those words have tumbled around in my mind since I left Atlanta.
You can write.
How often do we say those words to our students? Only those words with no strings attached?
Teaching writing is such a complex task. We think about how to teach process and structure and craft and organization. We sit down side by side with a student wanting to get the most bang for our buck during a four to five minute writing conference. We offer lean prompts and teaching points and one thing writers do is…
But what if every now and again we read a piece of writing and just looked the writer right in the eye and said, “Wow. You can write.”
I went to my first grade daughter’s parent-teacher conference tonight. When we were finished her teacher asked us to leave a note on Maddie’s desk. I wrote:
I am so proud of you. Miss Welch told us how hard you work every day. I really enjoyed reading your writing. You are a good writer.
Keep working hard, and keep being kind.
You can write. Three words that can change a student’s life forever.