The most beautiful thank you I have ever received

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Today was, as I have written, one of those days—a chase of a day, only-a-few-minutes-out-beneath-the sky day—and it wasn't until dinner was over that I opened the white envelope that had been addressed to me by a certain extraordinary seventh grade teacher at a nearby middle school.  I'd made a presentation at this school not long ago—invited the students to write poems, invited them to see themselves newly.

The white envelope contained the most precious thank you letters I've ever received.  I stood and read them and cried.  Clearly the students had been asked to write what they'd learned from me, or how my presentation had changed their view of poetry or writing, and with stunning precision and generosity these students dedicated themselves to that task.  "My poetry has changed because I write about real life events because I can connect with them."  "I learned that you don't have to write about something amazing."  "I was the one in the audience that you called on that only had 4 words on his paper, but with your help, I now have many words that I made into a poem."  "I used to think poetry was kind of dull and a boring type of writing, but now I think it is really fun."  "I liked when you talked about how being a writer can be free and have no rules except for grammar to put down our feelings and emotions."  ".. and now I know how to write poems from the perspective of nature.  It's given me a new way of writing and I even want to write one for my mom to give to her at Christmas!"

Letter after letter, and then, beyond those letters, the poems that these students had finished after I'd left the room. The poetry of young hearts set free.

Remarkable teachers—those in the classroom day in and day out—instill the remarkable in their students, and were it not for two teachers' urgings, I'm not sure I'd ever have known just what these students heard that day.  This is a gift I will always keep, and will, no doubt, always return to.


Susan Taylor Brown said...

Oh Beth, what a precious, precious gift you gave to those students and they, in return, gave back to you.

B. Freret said...

Thank you for sharing this, exactly the sort of thing my heart needed to read this evening. Thank you.

poetjanes said...

These comments (and what students remember of your visit) are priceless!

I visited fourth graders a few years back as part of a "future careers" series and one youngster, scribbling in his notebook, looked up suddenly and shouted out, "Hey, did you ever read comics and get in trouble for drawing on your homework?"

Laughter. The class turned and stared at him. Then then teacher asked if anyone else had a question.

I looked at him and said "I didn't. But I know tons of writers who did."

That smile I got back--a shared secret!

Keep visiting classes and sparking creative fires, Beth.

Anna Lefler said...

Oh, my gosh. I'm so very glad your evening ended this way tonight, Beth.

The amazing thing is that those letters reflect just a fraction of the positive, encouraging effect you have on writers of all levels and ages out in the world every day.

Whoever they might be.

*whistles and looks at ceiling*

XO to you and all that you do!


tera said...

It's so awesome to be able to touch the hearts of children. Especially the ones who may not get that kind of encouragement any other time. When I was in high school my drama club had to go to some grade schools and do puppet shows. I thought it was a dumb assignment until I got there and we had a lot of fun. I got a book of thank you notes and drawings a couple weeks later - they were so great. I still have them, almost 30 years later!

Serena said...

That is so awesome. I'm not sure where I learned to love poetry, but it was never in the classroom. It must have been through my nana's encouragement, since she did let me use her typewriter to write short stories on.

I'm so glad that you were able to inspire the students...Sounds like they really saw poetry in a new light. It would be great to have all classrooms see this and feel this way about poetry.

Lilian Nattel said...

That is a wonderful gift, both what you gave them and what they returned. It's inspiring.

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