The 7-Minute Debrief

With eight weeks complete in this school year, I can officially declare writing workshop as the favorite time of the day for most of the students. Lately, it seems like this chunk of time is when our class bonds the most. I’m blessed to have a class of passionate and creative writers this year.

For many of us, the best moment of writing workshop is when it ends.  In other words, the last few minutes of workshop time when my students and I gather on the carpet for what we call “workshop debriefing.” This 5-10 minute conversation between writers is a quick way to build relationships as a writing community. I try to keep this debriefing focused on the writing product as well as the writing process. I usually facilitate our debriefing with three questions:

  • What went well today?
  • What are you heading as a writer next?
  • What did you work on today that we can learn from?

I view this as an opportunity to teach and to assess. I always look forward to this discussion because it provides me with teaching points for the coming days. Plus, the students and I get to hear what everyone is working on. I am noticing that my students are starting to become very helpful to one another as they are always willing to offer feedback.

This past Wednesday was like any other day. It was the end of writing workshop, and my stomach was growling as lunchtime was just a few moments away. I started out the debriefing session by asking each writer to share where they are in their writing process. As they made their way around the circle, I noticed that I had stopped writing down teaching points and “next steps” on my Status Of The Class page.  Instead, I was amazed at how these 10 and 11-year old students were speaking to one another.  They were talking like…writers.

I quickly started jotting down what these young authors were saying.  Here is a sample of what I observed:

  • Josh shared that he was planning out a story with lots of suspense. He had a basic idea for a plot, but he needed to fill in some plot holes.  Nathaniel, who is Josh’s peer editor, suggested looking at Jon Scieszka’s Guys Read: Thriller anthology.  Another boy ran over to his desk and pulled out Ralph Fletcher’s Guy Write: What Every Guy Writer Needs To Know and gave it to Josh.
  • Abby shared that she was working on some poetry as she held up a few mentor texts I had suggested including poems by Robert Frost and Langston Hughes.
  • Chris announced that he had started writing the third episode of “Monkey Attack.”  This announcement was met with a few fist pumps and shouts of “Finally!” from about half of the class. “Looks like you have some fans, Chris,” I said as he shyly chuckled.
  • Hannah shared that she started writing workshop with nothing to write about, so she used Rory’s Story Cubes for some inspiration.  Three other students asked if they could borrow those tomorrow.
  • Ella mentioned how she was mulling over the idea of starting a graphic novel about ferrets.  I steered her towards a book in our classroom library that was about how to design comics, paying particular attention to the pages about when to use wide-angles and close ups.
  • Ahmed, a very reluctant writer, explained how he was writing a script for a book trailer he was going to make for a story he was creating.  A few students offered him help for writing the draft, as they had just finished creating a book trailer themselves.
  • Donya announced that she had finished typing up her biography of Margaret Peterson Haddix, and was starting a poem inspired by the book RUMP: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff.

All this occurred in about seven minutes. What I had just witnessed was a community of writers helping each other, offering feedback, giving advice, sharing their failures, planning out their writing and asking questions.  For a few moments in the day, these young writers were cherishing this time to share, comment and connect.  Even some of my most reluctant writers had found a topic, audience or genre to pursue.  These seven minutes were special to me because I saw the power of our writing culture.  The writing customs, routines and behaviors we’d worked so hard to develop were on full display.  This group of writers had connected around an appreciation for the writing process.  Yet, none of these young writers had noticed recess had started 4 minutes ago.

Matchmaking with Books

When I first started building my classroom library, I only had one copy of each title. My classes didn’t do any independent reading during actual class time way back then, so there was rarely a need for multiples of any one book. At most, I would have to replace The Perks of Being a Wallflower when it inevitably disappeared again.

Even as independent reading and choice became a bigger part of what we did in our reading classroom, it was still only by accident that I would end up with multiple copies of a single title.

Later, I read Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer, and she mentioned something about having multiple copies of a single title so that students could recommend books to each other. “I want to read that book,” a student could say, pointing to a classmate’s book, and you could pull out your extra copy of The Hunger Games or Everything, Everything.

Several years ago, I ended up with several copies of Thirteen Reasons Why in my 8th grade classroom. This was long before the book became a Netflix series. One 8th grader read it, then another, until it seemed like an entire section’s worth of 8th grade girls had either just finished or just started reading it. And so each class would begin and end with my students discussing and debating Hannah and her choices.

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My current school’s ELA curriculum explicitly recommends matching up readers in pairs and small groups. This is a lot about comprehension—students can help each other clarify confusing parts as they read the same novel—but I think it’s okay to do a little book and student matchmaking here as well.

I’ve done this two different ways recently.

When a student said she wanted to take a break from her long read, I asked her neighbor, who had read two different graphic novel trilogies recently, to show her where those books were hidden. (I’ve replaced titles within one of the trilogies multiple times, so now they’re in the reserve section.) He gestured vaguely in the direction of my desk. “Tell her about the books,” I coaxed. “Help her choose.”

The two girls above were stuck between books, reading and discarding several titles. “Want to read a book together?” I asked. I showed them some titles that I had multiple copies of, and they picked one and decided how many chapters to read by the following week. And for a few days they read side-by-side. While they both ultimately decided the book was a little boring (and I agree), a few days later a different pair of students decided to read The Fault In Our Stars together.

I’m glad that I picked up two copies at the used bookstore instead of just one.

The Long Game

I'm not concerned with noise because I'm playing the long game.

This site’s central theme is building relationships, empowering learners. Long before this site and tagline were created, I worked diligently to build relationships with students. I also attempted to facilitate conditions to empower students. But, if I am truly honest, the conditions in my room were engaging, but not necessarily empowering. This was especially true inside the reading communities we were creating. We engaged in reading our books, we engaged in discussing and sharing our books, we engaged when reflecting about what we read, but far too often I’d hear stories about how the passionate readers I let go of each summer fell out-of-love with reading by the following year. I was sad. However, I eventually learned to cope with the fact that I was creating a dependent-on-me reading community. When you realize your passion to do something might not translate to the results you want to see, it is quite a humbling experience. I was not playing the long game.

So, for the last few years, I have worked hard to empower my students with the tools to find their own books and build their own reading communities. By the end of each year my students have lengthy “I want to read” lists stored in multiple places. They have go-to reader friends (kids with similar reading interests), and they know how to use various features on different websites to find books that may interest them. While I still work a great deal to build a reading relationship with each of my students, I now work equally hard at them not becoming dependent on me to give them their next book fix. I will be there until June, but I won’t be there in the summer or the following years.

The idea for this post came from a question I received from an observer to my room this past week. The observer was carefully watching the reading conferences I had with students. In one conference I asked a student, “What are you planning on reading next?” When she shrugged, we talked more about her current book, Allegiant by Veronica Roth. The student shared several reasons why she has loved the Divergent trilogy so far (side note: it will be interesting if this student becomes as righteously indignant as I was about the ‘twist’ Veronica Roth threw into the end of this series). Then I showed her how to use a few websites to find books that may have similar elements to the Divergent series. I shared with her how much I liked one of books we found and she looked delighted and said something like, “Thanks, I will check that out!” Then she started to walk away from the conference. I didn’t let her go, we talked some more and she left with several titles to consider and to write down into her reader’s notebook.

After class the observer shared some thinking about this conference then asked “What made you continue on, even though she liked the first book?” My response was, “Future planning for all the readers I work with, I am in it for the long game. I want to run into a kid like her four years from now and hear her joyfully share what book she is currently reading. I am a big fan of driving home the importance of being a planful reader. I want to empower the students I spend a year with to be readers years from now.” We continued to talk and share more thinking around the idea of how we measure success as a teacher. My thinking over the last few years has shifted monumentally. I still want my kids to have a great day, week, or even a year. However, it is becoming more important to me to see them flourish several years down the road.

If educators truly want to impact change in our kids and empower learners, we need to think beyond the 180 days the kids spend with us in one year. We need to help them learn the tools that will not only help them this year, but next year, the year after that, and hopefully for many years into the future. Yes, our goal should be creating amazing learning communities for our children this year, but we need to keep the ‘long game’ in mind. We need to embrace the idea that success is running into a former student four or five years into the future that you remember. Then seeing the spark in her eyes when we ask, “What are you reading now?”, “Are you still into judo?”, or “I remember your writing so well, do you still love writing now?”

When you are planning for your next lesson or unit, keep the long game in mind. Celebrate if your students are successful tomorrow or next week, but also reflect. Are you empowering them in a way that will help their long-term success, or are you just engaging them for the short-term? For me, I am thinking a great deal about the tools my readers are developing now that will help them for many miles down the road instead of a drive around the block.

Bleeding Scream

I am in a new role this year, one that means I am removed from classroom teaching. It’s been an adjustment, but one that is going fairly smoothly. That said, any time I have a chance to be in a school, I get excited and can barely contain myself. Even if it means I’m giving a short presentation to teachers about how they can use their new laptops in their classrooms.

As I’m also new to my school division, some of the building leaders have given me short little tours the first times I’ve been in their schools. The first building I was in was a K-8 building that was a modified open-classroom building. Most rooms didn’t have doors, and many walls were “missing” as well. The result was a really powerful experience as I would walk by “classrooms” and hear bits and pieces of the learning going on around me.

When I walked by one of the grade 5/6 areas, I saw the students all looking at their teacher, and I heard him say two words: “Bleeding Scream.”

I had to stop the person giving the tour, to make sure I heard that correctly. Sure enough, I did not miss those words. He was about to read a chapter of Wonder. For those who know the book, that is the chapter. The chapter when Jack Will says those words.

Wonder
Do you know the book? One of my favourite read-alouds.

I didn’t want to distract the students from that moment, so I continued on.

But those kids stuck with me. I’ve never read the book with that age level before. How did they react? What did they think? Were they surprised? Did any of them feel sick to their stomachs, as I did when I first read that scene?

Fortunately, the answer was but an email away.

I asked the teacher those very questions. His response was better than I had hoped. Sure, he let me know their thoughts. But he also invited me to come talk with them myself.

So yesterday, I had the opportunity to put on my teacher hat and read a section of Wonder to a group of students who were so invested in every word, I could have read with them for hours.

Some incredible things happened as a result of that experience:

  1. I was able to connect with my teacher self a little more deeply, feeding that fire.
  2. The classroom teacher got to a) have a well-deserved break and b) see his work validated by a colleague.
  3. The students got to see that this practice — reading a book and talking about it — is not something limited to them and their teacher. It’s something adults do because it’s a good practice.

As administrators, sometimes we can lose sight of the impact our actions can have. We get caught up in what we see as important, forgetting that the most important thing is the students in our care. Though they might not be directly in our care most of the time, they are still the only thing that matters in this profession.

The look on their faces, seeing someone from the division office (perhaps capitalized Division Office in their minds) step in and do what their teacher does with them every day, was one of wonderful realization. This isn’t just their teacher doing something good. This is something of value beyond their learning space. This is something that matters. They are someone who matters.

Some will say the time spent with these students could have been better spent. I suppose I could have worked some more on the database of instructional videos I’m creating. I could have met with my team members on a project we are working on. I could have done some more professional reading.

But that stuff will happen. That’s a required part of my job. What’s important are the things that aren’t required. For 30 minutes at the end of the work week, I chose to be with students and bring some validation to a teacher and his practice.

I can’t think of a better use of my time.

I don’t want to sit here and put a false air of importance on myself. But it is important that those of us on the administration side of things realize the “official” nature of our presence, whether we want it or not. How are we using it to validate and appreciate those around us? Worse yet, how are we using it to invalidate or depreciate those around us?

Let’s use the little bit of power we have for good, as often as possible. Because those students? The looks on their faces? I’ll never forget it.

Of course, doing a one-time visit is nice. But it is that much better when we can repeat these things. When we can really show the students how important they are. The students recognized that. They asked me to come back as I was leaving. And sure, that felt nice. As much as I validate their work, those words of theirs validated mine.

But to come back. To show them that yes, they are important. Yes, they matter. That is key. They are worth my time, no matter how busy I may be.

Celebrating through Stories

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September 15 through October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage month.  As a country we celebrate the heritage, culture, and contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans. Of course this type of celebrating does not just happen during this month but is incorporated throughout all we do all year long.

As a young African-American girl it was hard for me during the month of February when I felt that Black History month was spent learning about slavery and hardship. The celebratory aspect was often lost for me. As a teacher I have tremendous power over how students feel during these months of celebration. In our classroom community we choose to celebrate stories, authors, and people who represent this rich culture of beauty and strength.  It is important to acknowledge and participate with the rest of the country as we pause to lift up our fellow Hispanic and Latino Americans. Here are the stories, biographies, and histories our classroom community has enjoyed during this time…

Little Night, Nochecita by Yuyi Morales Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 7.57.17 PM

My class fell in love with the playful nature of Little Night. They wanted to take time to look through all the pictures  to find all the places Mother Sky looked for Little Night. They also enjoyed having the Spanish text to go along with the English text. One student commented, “I feel like we are playing hide and seek too!”

 

 

Little People, Big Dreams Frida Kahlo

“Frida Kahlo taught the world to wave goodbye to bad things and say “Viva la vida…Live Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 7.58.00 PMlife.”

This quote from the text has sparked a saying in our classroom community as things happen throughout the day you can often hear someone saying, “viva la vida”. This picture book biography was the first introduction to the life and work of Frida Kahlo for each and every one of my students. They were fascinated by how she overcame so many things. They couldn’t believe how she was able to draw from her bed or how she used mirrors to draw self-portraits.

 

Nino Wrestles the World and Rudas by Yuyi Morales

These two laugh out loud stories captured the attention of all my students almost immediately. They jumped right in and read along with me as the author so beautifully combined Spanish and English to tell and adventure tale of Nino. Students said that you couldn’t read one without the other and many tried to use many of Morales craft moves in their own writing. Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 7.58.44 PM

Separate is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh

Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 7.59.30 PMBut why? But why? But why? This question could be heard over and over again as students listened to the story of Sylvia Mendez in this beautifully written account of her family’s fight for justice. This is definitely a book we will visit again and again as we think about people who have overcome adversity.

 

 

 

Maya’s Blanket, La Manta De Maya by Monica Brown

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According to my students this book read like a guessing game. They couldn’t wait to see what Maya and her abuelita would create next with the 

fabric from the blanket.  I noticed that his book also sparked many ideas for writing. Students used the example of the playful text structure to create their own recycling tale.

 

 

Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell

In addition to the wonderful story of Mira and how she joined forces with an artist to create beautiful murals in her community my students were captivated by the author’s note in the end. Once they discovered that this story was based on the true story of Rafael and Candice Lopez ,who organized to create beautiful murals around their city, they started thinking of how they could do similar things in our community.

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Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book by Yuyi Morales

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We got to the last page where Grandma Beetle gave a wink and the class erupted, “

READ IT AGAIN” and so we did! Students love to read it along with me as the text has a playful repetitive structure that was fun to read. But the most fun was listening to all the theories around who was Senor Calavera and where did he want to take her?!

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 8.01.27 PMDanza! Amalia Hernandez and El Ballet Folklorico de Mexico by Duncan Tonatiuh

“I can’t wait to tell my mom about her, she will be so excited because she’s from Mexico City too!” A student couldn’t hold this in as I read the first few pages of Danza.  Students enjoyed listening to Ami’s story and how she worked hard and was able to start her own dance school that became famous and toured all over the world.

 

Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote by Duncan Tonatiuh

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Many of students shared connections or stories while listening to this migrant’s tale. We took our time through this book and read it over a couple of days. Our conversations were deep, but felt as if they brought us a little more together. This tale takes readers through the experience of what it may be like to leave everything you k

now to go to the unknown. It was a powerful read for us.

 

Bravo by Margarita Engle

These poems were a window for most but also for some a mirror. They got to see themselves, their heritage, and culture celebrated through the hard work of the people honored in this book. We will continue to revisit these poems as a way to learn about people who have made a difference in our world.

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Call me Tree, Llamame Arbol by Maya Christina GonzalezScreen Shot 2017-10-05 at 8.03.08 PM

“Is this a yoga book Mrs. Burkins?” This bilingual text invites students to want to read both the English and Spanish. Many students physically tried the poses as the book was read aloud. One student even suggested we play soft music the next time we read it. They enjoyed the way the illustrations completely matched what the children were doing in the book. This was a very fun read with them.

Bringing School Home: Our Seesaw Story

Amazing things are happening every day in our classrooms. I realized early on, however, that parents rarely hear about these amazing things.  Parents see only what we send them.  In their minds, the classroom is often a reflection of what shows up in the take home folder each night.  This is often a poor representation of what happens during the day.  We knew we needed a better way.  We needed an easy, quick way to share what was happening in the classroom.  How could we do this?  That question led us to find Seesaw.  Seesaw has been one of our strongest relationship building tools with parents.   We knew parents would love seeing what was happening each day.  We are fortunate to have two Seesaw ambassadors in our school, Jennifer Moeller and Kelly Hendrick.  They have volunteered to collaborate on this post to share how Seesaw is used to build relationships with parents in their classrooms.

Jennifer Moeller, Kindergarten Teacher:

I first used Seesaw in my classroom two years ago, but last year I can honestly say that I used it almost every single day.  I asked myself daily, “what part of our school day can I show parents?”  I uploaded pictures of the children playing, eating, working, singing, exercising, and the list goes on.

It wasn’t until one father reached out to me that I really understood what an impact this app was having with families. When he and I met for fall conferences, he told me a very personal story of how his wife had passed away a couple years ago.  As a result, he was raising his two young children on his own while finishing his last year of medical school. He broke into tears as he told me how much he appreciated me sending pictures of what was happening in the classroom, as he was not able to volunteer and see for himself.  I had his oldest child in my class and this was the first of his two children to go off to kindergarten to be independent all day. This was his way of being connected to her at school and I could help him to be connected.  I could tell that he had viewed the pictures within minutes of me sending them because he would always “like” them by adding a heart.

To my surprise, he nominated me for a B.L.O.C.K. award that spring.  This award is given by my district each year to staff that portray Benevolent Leaders Of Creativity and Knowledge. His letter was heartfelt and it expressed how much he loved and appreciated the connection I gave him by seeing the inside of our classroom each day.  Although I did not win the award that spring, I did win in the end. I know that what I’m doing with Seesaw in my classroom has a powerful connection with my students and their families because of this one child and her dad.

Kelly Hendrick, Third Grade Teacher:

As a teacher, I am constantly asking myself, “What else…?”  

-What else can I do to help my students learn?  

-What else can I do to help include my parents in our classroom days?  

-What else can I do to better myself as a teacher?  

Well, a few years back, I found a FREE classroom app that answered many of those questions…that app was Seesaw.  

At first, I used Seesaw to post photos of our classroom and pictures of the students hard at work.  But again, I found myself asking, “What else can I do with this amazing resource I have at my fingertips?”   I started posting glimpses of student work and locker art.  The parents were loving it!  They really felt as though they were a part of our classroom day by seeing their children’s accomplishments.

As time went on, I realized that I wanted this experience to be as interactive as possible, so my Seesaw entries took a turn in that direction.  One day, I posted our “Problem of the Day” for the parents to solve and their participation was through the roof.  The students went home that night with the answers in their heads while the parents were able to also talk and share their own experience in solving the same problem.  What a fun way to bring the classroom to life for everyone!

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The other thing I realized was that our classroom anchor charts hold valuable trinkets of information to help parents feel connected to our current learning, so I started posting those for reference as well.  Students and parents could use them as a guide and resource at home or in the car – wherever it was convenient.  Technology can be a beautiful thing!
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The list could go on and on regarding the other opportunities I have found to interactively include parents into our school day, but a few of my personal favorites are video recorded “Book Talks,” links to Educreation “Book Trailers” made by students, and live recordings of students reading aloud.  These are just some of the “non-traditional” ways to communicate all of the awesome things we do in the classroom with parents who always want to know and see more.  

I will undoubtedly continue to ask the “What else?” question as the days and years go on, but I really feel like I’ve hit the classroom jackpot with this learning journal app.

 

Tell Your Story

During a conference four years ago, educational leader Colby Sharp said, “If we don’t tell our story, who will?”  I still think about this question all the time.  We live in a time where teachers get blamed for everything.  We are bombarded with a false narrative that public education is failing.  It’s not.  However, we do need to do a better job telling our story.  We need to do a better job telling it to community members.  We need to do a better job telling it to legislators.  And we need to do a better job telling it to parents.  Seesaw has been a powerful tool for telling our story.  Amazing things are happening every day in our classrooms.

 

This article was collaboratively written by Jennifer Moeller, Kelly Hendrick, and Jim Bailey

Kelly Hendrick is a 3rd grade teacher at Hemmeter Elementary in Saginaw, MI.  She loves connecting with her students each year and learning about their favorite things.  She has a husband, Trace, and two of her own children, Liam (6) and Ellie (3).  She loves to golf with her family and browse Barnes and Noble with her kids who MAY have been known to put on an impromptu puppet show in the children’s section from time to time 🙂  You can follow her on Twitter @kel2orange

Jennifer Moeller is a kindergarten teacher at Hemmeter Elementary in Saginaw, MI. She loves getting to know her students and building positive relationships with them and their families that last for years. She has a husband, Nate, and two children, Sadie (8) and Sam (7). As a family they love to spend time together watching movies, taking weekend trips up north, and just being outside. You can follow Jennifer on Twitter @jenmoeller33

Can You Dab?

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“Can you dab?”

A fourth grade boy sitting twenty-some rows back from the front of the auditorium asks. Eyes sparkling, face beaming, perched on the edge of his seat, he waits.

“Can I dab?!” grins award-winning author Jason Reynolds, wearing a knowing expression that humorously reads ‘how-old-do-you-think-I-am?’

“Yeah! Can you dab?!” the young boy repeats.

Jason walks up the aisle, dragging the microphone cord, as middle school heads whip around to follow his every move. He is dressed head to toe in black, his dreads tumbling over each other. Reaching the boy’s row, Jason looks over to him. This fourth grade boy, now standing, is
enraptured
engaged
enthralled.

This fourth grade boy, who is black, gazes up at this adult black man who says:

“Yeah, I can dab.”

One heartbeat flutters. One breath exhales. One boy wonders…

He need not ask for proof. Jason bows his head into his elbow. He dabs. The crowd goes wild. Clapping. Smiling. Cheering. Dabbing back. It’s a response, a conversation, between 450 middle school students and a man who, through one seemingly simple question, let them know that they were
seen
heard
acknowledged.

* * * * *

For several months, I had been co-organizing an author visit to our school district with Jason Reynolds. We were lucky beyond measure to get the opportunity to host him. If you’re not familiar with Jason, visit his website, read his poetry, hear his story. His literary accolades and honors are stickered across the covers of his books for young people:
Coretta Scott King
National Book Award
NAACP Image Award
Kirkus Prize
Schneider Family Award

Jason’s good fortune as an author of children’s literature was a long time coming before it was finally realized. Way before the awards, the book tours, and the bestselling novels, there was his childhood in Washington, D.C. A childhood that drives him to create authentic characters, stories, and voices for his books, putting the “real” in realistic fiction. He stood in front of our students and told them stories, his true stories about
eating ramen noodles and generic peanut butter
dying hair with kool-aid
popping cassette tapes into Walkmans
playing basketball

And then there were stories that made us gasp, laugh, sigh…think.

He told them that he didn’t read until he was 18 years old. Our reading workshop trained, book loving kids were horrified. This was unthinkable. Why, they asked. WHY didn’t you read?! Because the only books that were available to kids like me were “classics” like Moby Dick…and I couldn’t relate, because there weren’t any whales living in my neighborhood, he explained.

He told them that one of the first cassette tapes he ever bought was a rap album by Queen Latifah, and it changed his life. The more he listened to her, the closer he grew to realizing that her words, her raps, were poetry. This epiphany began a daily practice of writing poetry, as he told himself, “I’m going to be Queen Latifah when I grow up!”

He told them that he moved to New York to pursue his writing dreams.

He told them that he was living in his car a handful of years ago.

He told them that he was working in a clothing store a couple of years ago.

He told them that through all of this, he was writing. Two pages a day. Squeezing in time to write in the edges of his days.

He told them that he was on the verge of giving up his writerly dreams, but was prompted to start writing stories and characters who
looked like him
talked like him
acted like him
lived like him

He wrote through a lens of “everyday diversity”, showcasing characters with authentic
voices
families
challenges
interests
stories,
creating books to read about black people outside the oeuvre of “boycotts, bondage, and basketball”, because “black kids do more than play basketball”, Jason told them. He knew children of all kinds needed to be able to hold up a book as a mirror and see themselves in it. And he was determined to tell those stories.

* * * * *

“Curry or Jordan?” another black student asks Jason, challenging him to name the greatest basketball player of all time.

“Ooooh, you’re asking me difficult questions,” Jason plays along.

After a long pause…

“Jordan.”

And the crowd goes wild.

* * * * *

While Jason was presenting, I was kid watching. Scanning the faces of our very diverse district, I saw one face after another light up, engage, and connect. That was when I realized the profound impact this author visit was having on our children.

When our student raised his hand to ask if Jason could dab, he wasn’t really asking “Can you dab?” He was wondering
Do you see me?
Do you hear me?
Do you know that I have stories, too?

And Jason, a man who mirrors him in many ways, wordlessly responded, in one gesture
I see you.
I hear you.
I am writing my stories for you.
(Jason Reynolds is the author of When I Was The Greatest, The Boy in The Black Suit, All American Boys, As Brave As You, The Track Series (Ghost, Patina), Miles Morales: Spider-Man, and forthcoming Long Way Down.)