monique polak

Monique Polak's Books

6 minutes reading time (1183 words)

Big Day, Big Fun at Kingsdale Academy

I'm back from what was probably my biggest teaching day ever -- and I was a full-time teacher for 35 years! Today, thanks to the English Language Arts Network's ArtistsInspire program, I had a chance to work with nearly every student at Kingsdale Academy, an elementary school in Pierrefonds. I had seven sessions with different groups of students -- and though the day was a bit of a whirlwind, I had non-stop fun. And I took four pages of notes for this blog entry, but don't worry I'll try to limit myself to just a few of the highlights!

I'll start by telling you about Odean because he's in today's pic. Though Odean is only in Grade Two, he's already a star. You can tell from all the notes he took. I especially like note #!: "She likes notes.' I do. That's because, as I was telling the students, I only remember interesting things if I WRITE THEM DOWN! By the way, I'm also partial to Odean's note #8: "She funny."

I've been to Kingsdale several times, and have come to know some of the teachers, including Ms. Lara, who teaches Grade 6, and with whom I started the day. This is how she described her class to me: "These students are sparkling all the time." And you know what? Sparkling was indeed the perfect word for them! When I told the students I write three pages in a journal every morning, a student named Ava asked: "Let's say I start doing pages, what would I write about?" What I like so much about the way Ava phrased her question is that it suggests SHE MIGHT ACTUALLY START WRITING PAGES TOO! YAY! Anyway, I shared my strategies: to write about observations, feelings, thoughts and to include intuitive work too. After we discussed the link between writing and reading, a student named Milan asked, "How do you find a book you actually like to read?" I had lots of answers for Milan. First, start in the library with your librarian Ms. Ferstman (Ms. Ferstman happens to be the person who invited me to Kingsdale today), then ask your teacher and friends for their book recommendations. And also browse! Spend some time in the library, check out the back covers of books (they often include an excerpt) till you find the one that "speaks" to you. And here's the best advice of all: IF YOU CAN'T FIND THE BOOK YOU REALLY WANT TO READ, THEN WRITE IT!

My second group were Grade 4's, who were with their student teacher Ms. Jenna. When I told them writers need to practice and I compared us to hockey great Wayne Gretzky (whom I happened to see last weekend at the funeral for Prime Minister Brian Mulroney -- I told the students that part too) who had to practice a lot to become a superstar, a student named Alexia said, "The same happens for me when I do dance. Sometimes, I don't want to do it, but I do." Exactly, Alexia! In this group, I also met Nathan who liked what I had to say about the importance of including trouble in a story. "Trouble is basically my life," Nathan told me, "Wherever I go, trouble happens. It's mostly because of my younger brother."

At recess, some students came to hang out with me in the library. I was impressed by Giordano who showed me the book he's working on. Giordano's story is set in Japan, and his main character has a pet Tsushima leopard. Giordano learned about these leopards when he was doing RESEARCH for his book. (We had already discussed the importance of research even in fictional stories.)

Next, I was with Ms. Oles's Grade 4's. For some reason I cannot explain, we talked a lot about death and grandparents. Ms. Oles's students have A LOT OF STORIES. Audrey told us, "I have a box full of memories, including a bracelet from my great gramma." I loved that and you know what Audrey? A Box Full of Memories would make a great book title! I was pleased when Aiden told me he is working on a chapter book, and that "Every time I finish a chapter, I edit it." Super, Aiden! As I told the kids, rewriting is as important as coming up with the first draft -- and maybe even more important!

I met another Aiden in Ms. MacLean's Grade 6 group. This one greeted me with the following unforgettable words: "Want a cupcake?" (To which I obviously replied YES). Then Aiden went on to explain that today was his birthday. For fun, I told him I'd sing him Happy Birthday in Dutch -- and then another remarkable thing happened, there was a Dutch student in the class named Juliette -- and she came up to the front of the classroom and sang it with me. Juliette only arrived in Canada last July -- she comes from a town called Tienen, which I had never heard of before. (I plan to look it up after I finish this blog entry.)

After salad lunch in the teachers' room -- KIngsdale teachers bring salad fixings once a week, so today was my lucky day since I love salad. (It's especially nice after a cupcake!), I worked with Ms. Andrea's Grade 2's, Ms. Galang's Gr. 3's and Ms. Suzanne's Grade 3's.

Odean, whom I already told you about, is in Ms. Andrea's class. Ms. Galang's student Anysia wanted to know, "How do you even make a book?" I hope some of my writing advice helped answer that question.

I finished the day with Ms. Suzanne's kids. We actually did some writing exercises together. I asked them to come up with a word to describe how they hope tomorrow will be. Mehtaab said "epic" and Saabjit said, "be the smartest boy around the world!"

Just two more things before I end this blog entry. Ms. Galang's students had to leave for recess before I could read them one of my stories, but six students stayed behind. First, I read a little bit to them from Princess Angelica: Camp Catastrophe, and then I let them read Chapter 2 to me -- and it was beautiful. Thanks, girls, for that gift!

I'll end with some wise words from Shailyn, who's in Ms. Suzanne's class: "I think being an author is hard and easy. Hard because you have to think of the words and lines to put in the book. And easy because it's easy to be happy when you get published." And you know what else is easy, Shailyn? Getting to spend a day with wonderful, smart, fun kids like you -- and all the other kids I met today at Kingsdale.

Thanks to Ms. Ferstman for organizing my visit; to ELAN's ArtistsInspire program for your support; to Principal Ms. Byrne for coming to listen and for being such a great role model to the faculty and students; to all the teachers and support staff for being A+ and to the kids for stealing my heart today.

 

 

 

 

 

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Monday, 15 April 2024

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