As soon as I arrived at Birchwood Elementary School this morning, I knew I was in for a happy visit. That's because I was greeted by two Grade Six students: Maya and Breanne, who asked, "How would you like to be addressed?" Fancy question, no? I told the girls they could call me Monique, but I warned them never to tell my students at Marianopolis because they have to call me Miss Polak (until after they graduate!). I asked Maya and Breane, "Did someone tell you to ask me that?" but they said no, they'd thought up the question by themselves!
I did two workshops today -- one for two Grade Five classes, and another for two Grade Sixes. The pic you're looking at is me with the Grade Fives. The teachers are there too -- that's Mrs. Sellitto at the back, and Madame Marilyne on the right. Special shout-out here to Mrs. Sellitto who is a specialist in Holocaust education, a subject which is close to my heart.
Two classes together can be a lot to manage, but all the kids today were terrific. When I asked the students why I take notes while reading, a student whom I'll call L, answered: "to give yourself advice on your stories." I loved how L put that. And yes, you're right, L, I read not only to relax and escape into another world, but also to learn how I can become a better writer.
You know how I like finding interesting things to observe? Well, I noticed how a student named Tyus had a curl stuck to the middle of his forehead. Tyus swore that he did not need mousse or gel to achieve this effect! And his classmates told me something I didn't know: that Superman (from the Superman movie) also has a curl stuck to his forehead.
I was so busy with the Grade Fives that I spent recess working with them too (sorry guys, for making you miss recess!). Afterwards, it was on to a Grade Six classroom, where I worked with Miss Roberts and Madame Manon's students. When I was explaining how trouble makes a story move forward, I gave an example, saying, "What if I wrote a story about a kid who was a great student, who was popular, who had a perfect family, healthy grandparents, and well-behaved pets?" -- at wjhich point a student named Sam remarked, "Said nobody ever!" Clever and funny, Sam! Later, Sam told me he wants to be an author, "or an actor or a gymnast."
There was time with both groups for a writing exercise. I asked a student named Madison for permission to quote a little of what she wrote (the exercise was based on a childhood memory): "I'm outside and I just got stung by a wasp... I run home crying.... My mum had just quit smoking, and I saw her smoking in the backyard. I started to cry even more." Though Madison only had time to write a paragraph, I already love it -- I think because she captures her own emotions: two kinds of pain. Also, I find the paragraph a tender portrait of Madison's love for her mom. Keep writing that story, Madison!
Okay, time for me to do some WRITING. How else will I keep getting invited for school visits if I don't keep writing books? Thanks to the teachers for sharing your wonderful students with me today, thanks to librarian Mrs. Hausen for arranging the visit -- and a special thank you to the the students for being so smart and loveable.
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