Due to tragic circumstances this week, I am once again feeling present to great loss in my life.
New York Times bestselling author Luanne Rice once said, “Anyone with a heart…has experienced loss. No one escapes unscathed.” And I know this is true, for I have felt it. Because I believe I have a heart. And all of you who work with kids everyday, you have felt loss, too. Because you have a heart.
In light of this revisitation of grief, which has arrived unexpectedly knocking softly at the door of my present consciousness, I am reminded of both the great honor and sacred responsibility bestowed upon us as teachers. As we teach our kids to write, we feel, sometimes at a visceral level, the daily challenges our job presents. No, this work is not easy, nor is it always easily defined. There remains no formula. And navigating the contours of each day can sometimes feel frustrating, the rewards fleeting. But I believe it is so important to remember that each life we impact matters. Each one of the children with whom we interact is currently living into an uncertain future. Thus, with kindness and resolution, we greet writers each day, and we do all we can to help them learn what it takes to make their voices heard through the power of the metaphorical pen. This is our work.
Having lost my only brother and my mother, both rather suddenly (years ago now), I endeavor to always remain present to the fact that we can never know for certain how much time we will be given to teach or work with each student. The unfortunate and tragic story which has unfolded in my school community this week teaches and reminds me– and perhaps all of us– that there may not always be a “next year.” And so the work we do now, the work we do to help kids see themselves as writers, to meet them where they are, to support them in lifting the levels of their work, to provide them with expert teaching, coaching, feedback, and guidance so that what they write will be heard and taken seriously… this work is urgent. It cannot wait. It requires our full attention; it demands spirited, all-out exertion. For the future is at stake; our students’ future, as well as our own. So we must value these children. Every one of them. We simply must.
For they are all precious.
For more than 27 years, Lanny has taught, coached, presented, staff developed, and consulted within the exciting and enigmatic world of literacy. With unyielding passion and belief in the possibility of workshop teaching, Lanny has worked to support students, teachers, and school administrators around the country in outgrowing themselves as both writers and readers. Working first as a classroom teacher, then as a coach and TCRWP Staff Developer, Lanny is now a literacy specialist, working and living in the great state of Connecticut. Outside of literacy, he enjoys raising his three ambitious young daughters with his wife, and playing the piano. Find him on this blog, as well as on Twitter @LannyBall. Lanny is also a co-author of a blog dedicated to supporting teachers and coaches that maintain classroom writing workshops, twowritingteachers.org.