Writers Write!

Posted on July 20, 2015

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In the scrapbook from my my first year of teaching at AHS is an article about a poetry reading series I organized at a local coffee shop, written by a student, Kellee Gallardo, for the school newspaper, The Maple Leaf. Kellee writes,

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The Maple Leaf, September 1994

Students strongly expressed their freedom of speech and expression. They read poems that talked about living as women, stereotypes, suicide, sex, drugs, respect, loneliness, blue eggs, a woman searching for a majestic cigarette, not feeling understood, and Janis Joplin. lisa eddy (who also read about Bob Marley, a long road trip on a black Kawasaki bike, and her double personalities of Zorba and Mom) says, “Adrian poets made a great first showing. Both Opie (Greg, owner of Opie’s Espresso) and I were ecstatic about the number and quality of the readers. I’m looking forward to the next Adrian Poetry Happening.”

The year was 1994. I was a first-year teacher, but I was always a writer. I remember how, with great pleasure, I would pretend to write before I knew how to write the alphabet. I would spin a story in my mind and make large, connected loops–a preschool version of “cursive” writing. I couldn’t wait to have that power! As soon as I got it, I started writing. I “published” my first book of poems in second grade: I stapled several sheets of lined paper together and wrote and illustrated my first book of poetry. I still have it somewhere in the archive: the crates and crates of binders and hanging files of my writing and the writing of my students, friends, and colleagues. One thing that puzzles and intrigues me about my little poetry collection is that I wrote a poem about a cat. At first glance, it doesn’t seem strange; plenty of children write about pets, but I wasn’t allowed to have one, and I didn’t know any cats! And that’s why, perhaps, I became a writer. I discovered magic: writing gave me the power to create the world I wanted to inhabit, a world where I could have pets, maybe even a cat. Writing allowed me to do and be many things that were out of reach for a lonely child with a big imagination in a tiny town. As a teacher, it is important to me to be able to help young people find that power within themselves.

The Maple Leaf, March 1994

The Maple Leaf, March 1994

Sometimes students think that being a writer is out of their reach. That is an idea I work hard to change. “We’re all writers, here,” I say early and often in my classes. Then I show them what that means. I write. I share my writing with my students. I write for my students: course hand-outs, examples of the assignments I give, comments on their writing, letters of recommendation, poetry, songs. I write professionally, submitting articles to professional publications, and I share my writing with my students, proudly announcing a publication to my classes and basking in the applause. I don’t do it for money; I’ve never been paid for writing. I don’t do it for “fame.” Very few people outside the classroom are aware of my work as a writer. I do it for one reason: I want to be the best teacher I can be, and it seems to me that if I want my students to do research, write papers, and share their work with others, I should model these behaviors for them. I want my students to see that I’m nobody special, but I am a writer, because I do what writers do.

“The only difference between writers and non-writers is that writers write,” I say, again and again to my students, and I believe it, because I live it.

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