No Happy Endings

You know, I had my blog post for this week all mocked up. The rough edges were in, I was filling in the details and ironing out the formatting. It was supposed to be about my go-to mentor texts for starting units – a handy little collection. Neat and tidy.

And then, as it tends to happen in our profession, my teaching feet were knocked out from under me.

We were wrapping up a mini-lesson on endings in personal narrative writing. We had collected some noticings, discussed how they worked, and charted strategies on the board. Notebooks were rustling as kids were going back to their drafts to play with their own endings. Some would add reflection while others might try to tie back to where they started. It felt like I’d taught this lesson a million times. And then a student looked over her notebook pages at me and asked, “but what if there isn’t a happy ending?”

I pulled up a chair. I was ready for this question; I’d tackled it before. I started to direct her back to some of our mentors, but she pushed back. “No, what if I don’t have an ending like this?” she sighed, starting to sound a little exasperated. “These are happy endings,” she waved her hands over her folder of texts we’d studied. I noticed that another student had looked up and was listening. He nodded in agreement; he was struggling with the same question.

I’ll admit, that wasn’t something I’m used to hearing. I usually get the question “Why is everything we read so depressing?” about the literature we study. And it’s true. It seems like in middle school and high school, we’re always trotting out the books about death and dying, but she was still seeing these as having “happy endings.”

“What if I don’t have an ending like this?”

Her question had a weight to it that told me this was more than just a question about craft.   Continue reading


Mentor Text Wednesday: A Letter from Montreal

Mims First Snow

The author’s first snow–Image via The Concordian

Mentor Text:  A Letter From Montreal Maisonneuve Winter 2015

Writing Techniques:

  • Memoir – discussing a first
  • Writing about experiences
  • Writing around a set theme
  • Using various elements to tell a story
  • Writing strong conclusions


I’m a recovering magazineaholic.

Part of it is curiosity. I feel compelled to know what each magazine has to offer me. There are fascinating articles, cool images and design, and new learning hidden in each and every one of those periodicals.

Part of it is professional. I can archive stuff that can add to what we’re doing in class. Differing perspectives, challenging ideas, layout and presentation inspiration, to say nothing of all the mentor text opportunities… all in one package?!

I still walk into a book store, and want them all. Continue reading