This week, the PreK-8 in which I teach is celebrating spirit week. As part of the festivities, students come to school dressed in different themes, ranging from Color Day to Moustache Day to Heritage Day. Today is Career Day, and students have arrived representing virtually every possible career under the sun. From doctors and nurses, to professional athletes, to teachers, and even to fast food mascots, it appears that nothing has been left out.
Well, almost nothing.
As I’ve observed students interacting with one another today, I’ve heard “What are you dressed up as?” and “What do you want to be?” asked over and over. And, over and over, I’ve heard with excitement the standard “I’m gonna be a (fill in the blank)!” in response. As an educator and a self-proclaimed life-long learner, I am encouraged by the discussions that today’s theme are generating. After all, thinking about one’s future is a good thing, right?
Unfortunately, today’s activities also left me feeling somewhat unsure as well. This is because, only once so far, have I heard the following conversation take place, and my guess is that it’ll be the only time:
Student A: “Hey, what’re you dressed up as?”
Student B, dressed up in normal clothing: “I’m a writer. Duh!”
This is interesting to me, and got me to thinking: career or not, why is it that more students don’t consider writing long-term beyond their school years? Is it because it’s harder to picture “being” an author than it is to picture being a mechanic, a politician, or a football player? Is it because creative writing tends to take a back seat to the dreaded 5-paragraph essay in schools today, thus leading to burnout and disinterest where writing is concerned? Is it because putting one’s thoughts and stories out there for everybody to read is scary enough to dissuade even the most hardened extrovert from ever considering pursuing such a goal/career? Or is it because writing simply never takes root in a child’s life, given that there are so many other distractions that assume priority from day to day? Regardless of the reasons, today was eye-opening for me.
As someone that has always, and will always, embed non-fiction literacy strategies into the science classes that I teach, I’ve always thought I’ve been doing my part to get kids reading and writing. However, because of the “a-ha” moment I experienced today, I’m now left to wonder if I need to do more. In addition to emphasizing non-fiction literacy strategies, should I also be emphasizing creative writing just as heavily? Also, as someone that is an almost-yet-to-be-published-author-that-didn’t-even-start-creatively-writing-until-the-age-of-29-himself, do I have an obligation to push creative writing in the hopes that it might spark long-term interest in one or more of my students at an earlier age?
Well, it certainly couldn’t hurt, that’s for sure. And it’s not like I wouldn’t be able to effectively incorporate creative writing into my classes. It’d be real easy, for instance, to have students write a story from an atom’s point of view, or to describe the final hours of the dinosaurs in vivid detail. Therefore, as I continue reflecting on this, and as I begin planning for the upcoming school year this summer, I’m certain that I’ll make it a point to include more creative writing activities than I ever have before. And who knows? Maybe doing so will cause me to hear “I’m gonna be a writer!” more than once during the next career day.
The only reason for being a professional writer is that you can’t help it.
~ Leo Rosten