I was surprised to see him in the doorway of my classroom, holding a piece of computer paper.
“Steve! It’s so good to see you. How’ve you been?”
It was 3:00 on a Tuesday. I wondered why he wasn’t at practice. A star baseball player, Steve isn’t the kind of student who hangs around after school to check in with his former teachers.
But there he was.
“I wrote something today, and I thought you might like it,” he mumbled, moving gingerly towards my desk.
I pictured Steve in writer’s workshop a year ago, cursor blinking on a blank computer page.
“I’d love to. Can you read it to me?”
He stepped closer to my desk, and took a seat at the edge of a table. And he read.
And read and read and read. His memoir about surfing was full of voice. It poured out of him, and I could instantly tell why he had been excited to share it with me. It gave me goosebumps.
We talked for a bit about how the piece came to be, about his sophomore year. He was in good spirits, this young man who hadn’t always met deadlines or used workshop wisely.
Before he left, he promised to print me a copy, which he did, and delivered the next day.
That night I wondered what had compelled Steve to share his work with me–what had given him the urge after a year?
Then, a few days later, I received an email from a current student who wanted help writing a poem for her friend.
Ciara’s email moved me. The emails I receive from current students almost always center around classwork. I loved that her writing had taken on a life outside of the classroom–like Steve’s had. I was beginning to notice a pattern.
The following day, a former student, Taylor, stopped by my room after school. She wanted to write a speech to read during Morning Meeting, one that would educate the student body about the Nigerian school girls who had been abducted by militants. But she didn’t know how to start.
“Tell me what you know.”
And she talked, and we wrote down some ideas, and she walked away with a plan, excited.
By the end of the week, I couldn’t help but think that these visits from students were some kind of sign.
In all three instances, students had written for their own purposes and audiences. No one had asked them to.
While Steve had started his essay in English, it mattered enough to him outside of the classroom to share it, to find someone who would listen.
Ciara had discovered a new genre on her own–writing as a gift–and sought help in expressing her feelings for a dear friend.
Taylor knew that writing was a powerful persuasive tool. She wanted to educate students and show them how they could make a difference.
Does writing workshop work?
These students have writing lives outside of the classroom.
As far as I’m concerned, that’s all the proof I need.