Slice of Life 2013

Slice of Life October 8, 2013: The Power of Noticing

Slice of Life 

I’m participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge, hosted by Stacey Shubitz and Ruth Ayres at Two Writing Teachers.

We were working on the scripts for the drummer boys of the Civil War research project when I first noticed Sean’s writing. Until today, I haven’t seen any real writing, or for that matter, any real work on Sean’s part. Identified as academically gifted in language arts, Sean is also on our “watch list” for those who are not performing at grade level and liable to slip through the cracks.  Sean’s presence in my classroom had been unremarkable.

Until today, Sean struck me as a quiet, non-performer, more than willing to fly under the radar and hope to eke out another year without much effort on his part nor notice on ours.

Today I held my interest meeting for Nanowrimo, or National Novel Writing Month. For the past few Novembers, I have “sponsored” a small group of writers who were eager to take on the challenge of attempting to write a novel in one month. Some have been successful, meeting their word count goals, while others have succeeded beyond what they even thought they could do. All have had fun and forged friendships within this small circle of writers.

While I was circulating in the computer lab today, checking in with students as they wrote their scripts for the group photo story project, I stopped to see what Sean had written so far. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much.

I was wrong.

Sean had written several eloquent paragraphs about the history of the drummer boys. It was clear that he was enjoying the writing and he was anxious to perfect it. I watched him wordsmith his creation and noticed the high level of engagement he had in this task. Until now I hadn’t seen him this alive in the classroom.

I immediately thought of Nanowrimo. He had to join us!

“Do you plan to attend the interest meeting today for National Novel Writing Month?” I asked.

“What’s that?” he replied.

I gave him my best two-minute definition of the writing challenge and urged him to join us at lunch to find out more. He agreed to check it out.

The lunchtime meeting came and went and I had many students show an interest this year, more than ever before.

But no Sean.

After lunch, Sean arrived at my classroom door.

“Did you forget about the meeting, Sean?” I asked, hoping I was correct.

“No, I didn’t forget. I just don’t think I can do it,” Sean whispered, avoiding eye contact with me.

“Sean, you have to do this. You are a writer. You have a gift. You have to try!” I urged.

Sean stopped and looked at me and then he smiled. The first genuine smile I have seen on him since school started. It was as if something clicked within him and I could see a light in his eyes that had been missing before today.

“I’ll think about it,” he said as he took his seat, “I promise I will.”