Tuesday, December 30, 2014

For their whole lives

Tuesdays at Two Writing Teachers!
"I'm trying not to cry..." she kept repeating, snapping pictures of my classroom on the last day before break. Her last day of school in America. "I love this room." 

"Well, I try really hard to make it a happy, comfortable place for my students..."

"I know! Your class taught me that I could enjoy reading, that I could lose myself inside a book. One For the Murphys was the first time I ever felt like I was inside a story, like the people were real. When we finished it, I was like... but where are the Murphys?! That's why I kept accidentally calling you Mrs. Murphy... They seemed so real!" She giggled.

"That's one of my favorite things about a great story -- when the characters become so real to you that they become part of your life! And wasn't it fun to share that story together?" Scenes from this year's Global Read Aloud flashed through my mind: Shoulders tilted forward, faces hanging on every word. Intense scribbling in silence. Animated discussions. Wide-eyed wonder at receiving blog comments from Lynda Mullaly Hunt herself. Watery eyes and lots of blinking... even from tough teenage boys who don't think they're readers. Once again, magic.

"I've been reading at home every day now, and my dad is so happy. That's something I'll have for my whole life! Even though I have to leave your class, now I know I can enjoy reading."

It was one of those rare moments teachers dream of but rarely get: a reminder that yes, it's all worth it. The long hours and crazy mandates and the strain of having to carefully consider one million different things at the same time, without every being able to turn our brains off. It's all worth it for the chance to make a difference in so many precious lives. 

I hope she's right, that she'll always carry this spark with her. That she won't lose it in the midst of moving back to India and school and life. Or if she does, that something will remind her of the Murphys someday and she'll find it again. 

Because that's what I want for all of my kids: the ones who've become avid readers and the ones who are still looking around the room, getting a tissue, and watching the clock. The ones who remember loving reading when they were little kids and the ones who'd never read a book before they came into my class (either because they'd fake-read their way through years of bouncing around schools, because nobody reads for fun in the country they came from, or because they were busy just trying to survive violence and misery). 

I want them all to discover the magic and power of reading. I want them to know that they can find their life or escape from it in a book. I want them to be blown away by new ideas and aware of important issues. I want them to realize, like our favorite character Carley, that they are worth something and they can build lives of meaning and purpose.

And I want them to carry those SPARKS for their whole lives.