The book

I heard their whispers, and I shouldn’t have, because they were in line in the hallway. There are Rules, you know . . . .

Mrs. Haley!”

Mrs. Haley!”

Mrs. Haley!”

I looked around. There they were, not standing neatly in line but leaning out in varying degrees, trying to get my attention.

“What-? You all sound like a bunch of Parselmouths, hissing,” I said (Parselmouths being people who can speak snake language, for those of you not intimately familiar with Harry Potter, few though you may be).


And more whispers:

The books came! There’s one for you!”

“It’s wrapped”—

“Stop, you’re ruining the surprise!”

—I think somebody got elbowed, just then.

I taught a series of personal narrative lessons to this third grade class. I modeled my own narrative. They drafted theirs, conferred with their teacher, revised, conferred with me, revised.  They did every bit of the work, made their own artistic choices in both writing and illustrating, asked a lot of questions. At the last I coached each child through final edits.

Then their teacher compiled it all and sent it off for publication.

This week, the books arrived.

These writers couldn’t concentrate when I came to the classroom Thursday afternoon to talk about opinion writing. They wriggled and writhed like puppies at their seats.

Because a flat package, wrapped in bright jewel-tone paper, waited on the reading table.

The tag read Mrs. Haley.

“Soooo,” I said, “this is what all the excitement is about? Am I supposed to open this now?”

—They almost burst.




When I picked up the package, they gathered so close around me that I felt slightly claustrophobic. I had a fleeting sense of Gru in Despicable Me, being surrounded by  a sea of adoring Minions, countless giant eyes blinking in anticipation.

“Oh, wow—it turned out so well! It’s beautiful, everybody! I am so proud of you and your writing.”

They laughed, clapped, clamored, tried to tell me more stories about their stories . . . for they are, after all, authors.

I held the book to my heart, basking in the glow.

—They do not realize that they are the gift.

21 thoughts on “The book

  1. A gift that can keep on giving, as others read and enjoy their writing! I imagine that you have quite the collection of student writing by now. Do you ever go back and revisit pieces from bygone years?


  2. Talk about the true engaging power of personalized, project based learning! But no curriculum is fail proof without relationship and mentorship. Intentional and loving teaching from someone who practices what she preaches. “They laughed, clapped, clamored, tried to tell me more stories about their stories . . . for they are, after all, authors.” This line says it all. Job and slice well done- so many craft moves to try to emulate!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “They do not realize that they are the gift.” Take my heart now! I love everything about this story. I love the way you tell it and we feel all those adoring minions around you, and the suspense and excitement as they see their work in print. What a tremendous gift! You are really giving them something to remember and celebrate forever. My son had a teacher in 6th grade, who helped each child create a collection of personal narratives. I truly cherish that book. I am also so grateful to that teacher, as I am sure your parents are.
    You are such a gifted writer. Not everyone who can write can also teach others to write. You have both gifts. Congratulations on your class book!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. How delightful and so delightfully told to capture the sense of anticipation! Nothing like kids who can’t wait for something exciting to be revealed! I have found that most students absolutely delight in writing and sharing their own books. How nice that you could get yours published! I just print ours out here, but it’s still good enough!


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