During a recent writing residency, I was yet again reminded of the power of writing. The residency had a narrative focus. Even still, it was obvious how students explore their identities and process their world through writing.
When I was one-on-one with a student, she tearfully told me that she based the character on herself because she was bullied and wanted to write about that. After a momentary pause she added, “But everyone just thinks it’s my character.”
A grade two student wrote about living in Ethiopia and how he had to help his family (his mom was pregnant and his dad was working) by carrying a basket and collecting fruit for hours and hours.
A grade five student shared that her character was transgender and then described their personality, appearance, and emotions.
As teachers, we hold each of these students–along with their experiences and emotion, their fears and hopes–tenderly in our hands. As they write and explore, revise and share, they learn about themselves and the world around them.
And if we’re paying attention, we might just learn something too.