I'm just home from Ecole du Vieux-Chêne in Terrebonne, where I worked with three wonderful groups of Grade Six students. Also, these kids had me for TWO HOURS (with recess in between, and one break to stretch when I thought they needed it), and they were attentive and smart. When I realized that I'd have the same group for two hours in a row (Instead of two one-hour sessions with different kids), I was so happy I nearly danced. Which made a student named Stefania (correct my spelling if necessary, since it wasn't one of the names I wrote down in my notes) look a little well... worried!
Grade six teacher Crina Tirtoaca organized today's visit, where I worked with Ms. Crina's students and also Ms. Marie-Pierre's (that's Ms. Marie-Pierre at the back of today's pic) and Ms. Joanne's classes. Sometimes large groups can be hard to manage, but these kids made my job easy and super fun.
Amine and Jayden (both in today's pic) offered to be my notetakers. Both were SUPER -- and I think they wrote a lot of stuff down for their teachers to share with the classes. When I told the story of the story behind my picture book, The Brass Charm, Amine commented, "I think you would have done the same as the woman who gave your mother the brass charm." Oh, Amine, I'm not sure I could have been so kind, but I do hope so! My feeling is that Amine demonstrated HIS kindness by even having that thought!!
When I told the students that for me, The Brass Charm and What World Is Left (both of which are based on my mum's experiences during the Holocaust) feel to me like the stories I was put on Earth to tell, and that I hope they find the stories THEY were put on Earth to tell, a student naher med Camille (she's wearing a pink sweater in today's pic) nodded in a quiet and thoughtful way. Which was when I knew that Camille is a writer! And when I asked her about my hunch, she told me, "I love to write."
Jayden had many excellent questions, including "How did your mother survive?" That question led me to explain a complex and difficult issue -- that my mother owed her survival to my grandfather, who was forced by the Nazis to produce poropaganda art. Which led us to talk about family secrets -- and I told the students that it's THEIR job to find out the stories the people they love DON'T WANT TO TELL THEM. I even shared a few of my favourite tricks for uncovering secrets!
One of the characters in the story I'm now writing is Romanian. And then I remembered that Ms. Crina is Romanian -- YAY! During the recess break, I asked Ms. Crina a few questions which will help me when I get back to my story later this week. See, we writers are always doing RESEARCH -- even during recess breaks.
Jayden also wanted to know if my daily journal is "for ideas." Wow! I wish it were! I write three pages every day, but it's not all ideas. But Jayden gave ME an idea -- maybe we should all keep IDEAS books! And I was super pleased when a student named Clarken guessed that it took me FIVE YEARS to write The Brass Charm, even though the book only has about 900 words. "I knew it was a big number," Clarken said when I asked him how he was able to come up with the right answer.
If I sound happy, it's because I am. I was very moved by how interested the students were in learning about the Holocaust. I grew up in a Jewish community, where we all knew about the Holocaust, so somehow it's extra-special to me that kids from non-Jewish communities are also interested in learning about this dark chapter in human history. As I told the students, it's sometimes painful to learn about the past, but we need to know the truth, and we need to fight injustice and take every opportunity we can to be kind -- the way that woman was kind to my mom when she gave her the brass charm.
Many many thanks to Ms. Crina for the invite, to her and the other teachers for sharing their students, and to the students for being AMAZING. Now get to work uncovering secrets -- and writing about them!
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Love reading your adventures with students of all ages. You have the ability and power to reach them all! I think when I finish reading PLANET GRIEF with Rachel, if there is time left in this school year, we’ll read WHAT WORLD IS LEFT. Keep up the great work!! Hugs and much admiration!!
A big thank you to you, Mrs. Monique Polak!
We are honored and grateful for your annual visit which has become a must!
Your gift of telling stories - real or imagined - captivated the audience, as usual.
You teach, share generously, and touch souls in a graceful way!
I hope your great energy, optimism, and positive outlook on life will inspire our students!
CRINA!!! Thank you so much for this beautiful kind message. You're the one who is a gift to those students. I had such a wonderful time with all of you yesterday. The visit gave ME energy, optimism and a more positive outlook!!