Dear 5th Grade Students,
Like every teacher across America, I have been doing a lot of thinking since the tragedy at Sandy Hook School. I've thought about all the things grown-ups can, from politics, to blame, to detailed sadness. And I've thought about you. You are mine. I know each of you, and care for you, and want so badly for you to all reach your potential. That's why I'm a teacher.
Through all of this thinking, I've come to the realization that you are the ones I need to talk to. You are the ones who can change the world. You and every other 5th grader across our nation. You don't need to wait for the grown-ups to change things for you. You are capable of doing that yourselves.
Remember all the times we've talked about how powerful your brains are? We've talked about how whenever you learn or do new things, your brain neurons are building and strengthening new pathways for passing information. You are growing your brains. Those new pathways build knowledge, open avenues for creativity, and make fresh discoveries.
You are growing your brains at school, and also at home. Every time you play your video games, your brain is creating new pathways. If you are killing the bad guys, your brain is learning how to do that better and better. You are building a strong pathway for killing on instinct.
5th graders, is that a pathway of knowledge that you need?
You can change the world by putting away the video games. Instead, pick up a book. There are tens of thousands of wonderful books that can build valuable and useful brain pathways, and be super entertaining at the same time. Think books are boring? Come talk to me. You just need to find the right book.
You have all started band this year. Put away the video games, and pick up your instrument. Make up a song. Let your senses send input to your brain that is beautiful, rewarding, and all yours. Get together with your friends and form a quartet, or a rock band.
Start a drama club with your friends. I'll give you plays to perform. Build those neurons in a fun, creative, energetic way. Memorizing, characterizing, dressing up, building set, performing for an audience. What a great way to use your time.
5th graders, there are so many ways to build your brains, and every time you do, you are changing your future. You can choose what your brain holds. You can choose what your future holds. And your future is the future for us all.
My husband is a vocabularist. I don't even think that's a word, but that is what he is. He loves to use odd, old, funky, unusual words and phrases. I have a notebook on my nightstand to write down the vocabulary he uses, because I love to look back and have a good chuckle. His interjections are the best. When he hits his thumb with a hammer, he says "Sweet Mother McCready!" If something is surprising, he will say "Sweet Land o' Goshen!" He calls our children 'vermin' in a very loving way. Some days they are 'miscreants' or 'ne're-do-wells'. Luckily, our kids know their dad well, and also enjoy his vocabularist status.
Once, after reading a book on the importance of teaching kids vocabulary, I decided to shake things up a bit around the house. Instead of hollering, "Time for PJ's!", I changed it to "The hour has arrived to don your nocturnal attire!" My children said, "What?", and then got their PJ's on. This continued for months, and always brought a smile. We encourage them to be creative in their descriptive word choice, and we discuss words that fit any situation best. Building vocabulary is not just a subject reserved for school.
My oldest daughter wrote a paper for her college English class. She used the word 'plethora' and her professor made a big deal of it in front of the class. A fine example of excellent vocabulary choice in writing, he said. She was surprised, and responded with "Sweet land o' Goshen! Thanks!"
Learning to navigate the world of publishing is like learning to survive in the wild. You can take your skills with you, but you never know what you'll actually find when you get there. My writers group got a taste of survival skills this past week. Sandra Brug, a wonderful poet and storyteller, has recently learned that her picture book Soccer Beat was going to be re-released in paperback form. She learned this after sending a letter to her editor at Simon and Schuster requesting information about having the ebook rights returned to her. She was considering launching a personal ebook release. Instead of returning the rights to her, they decided to relaunch the book, which has been out of print in America for years. Needless to say, Sandra was thrilled. So at our meeting this week, we were discussing when her book would be available again. She'd received an email from the editor stating that they didn't know yet when it would be coming out, but when it did, it would be in a print on demand format.
Maurene Hinds, another excellent writer and writing teacher, pulled out her Droid and looked up Amazon. Sure enough - Soccer Beat by Sandra Brug will be released on September 21, 2012. That was in just a few days! We found it interesting that the editor didn't even know when it would be released, even though it was already in pre-order standing at Amazon. And Sandra wasn't even told! This news has obviously sent Sandra into a sudden blitz of blogging and linking and promoting.
Writers, we live in a whole new world. Information can drag for months and even years,or suddenly shift in a matter of moments. No more steady plodding through the writing and publishing process. Now we live the jumps and jerks and waits. Who knows what might happen next?
I highly recommend Soccer Beat by Sandra Brug. My sons and I fell in love with Soccer Beat when we checked it out from the library years ago. A few weeks later, my roommate stranger at my first ever Big Sky SCBWI conference was Sandra Brug. What a wonderful surprise connection! The rest for me is writing history.
Writing for children is a passion - along with reading kid's books, writing plays for kids, and teaching kids how to write!