Last week, after reading "Godzilla and the Giant Scissors" by Brent Staples, my AP students read a brief interview with the author in which he discussed influences on his writing. I assigned the follow-up, which was to write a brief narrative of their lives as writers, considering their influences and any positive or negative attitudes they have about writing.
And, as usual, I thoroughly enjoyed the responses I received. Many students spoke fondly of reading with parents, grandparents, siblings. Others spoke of learning to write, physically -- letter by letter. Still more discussed their experiences in school, citing influential teachers and courses -- including the current AP English Language and Composition course. It did my heart good to hear that my students feel they have become better writers because of our work together. One particularly skilled student said, "Writing is no longer a tool sitting awkwardly in my hands of inexperience; it has become an instrument that I can wield to carefully craft a sculpture depicting words being inundated inside paragraphs, and paragraphs conceding defeat to a single word. Kinetic."
[Editor's Note: I cannot take much credit for this student's success. Self-motivation and keen perception and a willingness to use the knowledge I offer are far larger factors than any one personality.]
The stories of these intelligent and motivated students were enlightening and fun to read -- and they helped me remember why I love to teach, even when the profession seems to constantly come under fire in the media, even when our success as educators must come under duress, even when the intellectual well-being of our students comes last on the political agenda. I find in these stories the promise of a better time ahead.