A few weeks ago after writing club, one of my students hung back after everyone had left, offering to help me clean up. I could tell she wanted to talk about something, but couldn’t find the words, so I got her started.
“How are you liking being a photographer for the Journal?”
“It’s good,” she said. “I chose that because I want to learn more about photography. Plus, I’m not a very good writer.”
THAT, of course, stopped me in my tracks. An 11-year-old who has already given up on writing? Not while I’m around!
“Why on earth would you think that you’re not a good writer?”
“Because the stuff I’ve written is never as good as I want it to be.”
I had to smile at that. “Trust me — everybody feels that way about their writing! Even best-selling novelists struggle with self-doubt. But the secret to being a good writer is to just keep writing. The more you do it, the better you’re going to get.”
I could tell from the look on her face that she wasn’t sure if she should believe me or not.
“You know, Anna, even the stuff I wrote just two years ago isn’t as good as what I’m writing now. And you’ll get better, too. You read a lot and that will help you become a better writer. And I think that in addition to taking photos, you should try your hand at writing an article for the paper.”
Her eyes opened wide in surprise, but she smiled. “Do you think I can?”
“Of course you can!”
We talked about the article she would write until the bell rang. A little later, as I made my way to the parking lot, she ran up to me with a paper in her hand. “This is something I wrote for class.” She ducked her head. “I thought you might like to read it.”
She ran off, not waiting to see my reaction, but I sat there in my car and read the hand-written, two-page story. A story about a house with windows for eyes, a house that saw more than it should. Deliciously creepy and atmospheric, and omigosh, why did this kid think she couldn’t write?
I found her after school the next day and gave her back the story. “Don’t ever think you can’t write, because this is brilliant.”
She took the paper and smiled. “You liked it?”
“Yes I liked it! And based on this, I’d say you already are a writer.”
She skipped to the car where her mom waited and I smiled for the entire weekend. Because moments like this are what make me love teaching. And believe it or not, they happen every day.