I can’t stop thinking about Tytiana. Right after Thanksgiving, I started a fresh coaching cycle in a third grade class during their writing workshop. We only had a few weeks until Christmas vacation and I wanted the students to have the opportunity to celebrate their writing before the break. The students, their teacher, and I decided to use their quick writes about “hands” and turn them into finished pieces. Some kids wrote about their own hands, the hands of a parent or sibling, or Santa’s hands. The format for the celebration was very simple. The kids put their fancied-up “hand” writing in the middle of their cleared off desks then stood quietly nearby. We had invited another class, administrators, secretaries, and some teachers to attend the gallery walk the week before. As guests arrived, they signed in and browsed the pieces at their leisure. They were free to pick up the writing, read it, and ask the writers questions. After about fifteen minutes or so, the teacher and I asked the attendees, as a group, what stuck with them about the pieces they had read or seen. The guests noticed that even though everyone had written about hands, all the pieces were different. Many of the visitors noticed that the writers had used similes. Lots of compliments. Lots of smiles. Then our visitors were thanked and they departed. Quick and painless. As soon as everyone left, the class, their teacher, and I gathered at the carpet to debrief. The kids were bursting with excitement. One little girl, Tytiana, a decidedly reluctant writer, was smiling so wide I thought her cheeks were going to pop.
“Tytiana, you are smiling so much! Are you happy?”
(enthusiastic head nod)
“Did it feel good to share your writing with Mr. P’s class?”
(another enthusiastic head nod)
“Did you want to tell why it felt so good?”
(animated head nod and a big breath in)
“Wellllllllll, this girl read myyyyyyy writing.”
“So, why was this so wonderful for you, Tytiana?”
(big breath in)
“Welllll, she is in my cheernastics class annnnnnnd, usually . . . she doesn’t even notice me. Today . . . she did!”
I looked over at Tytiana’s teacher biting my lip and swallowing hard. Tytianna continued.
“She never even talked to me before. (pause) Cuz, IIIIIIIII’m like on the bottommmm of the pyramid, yunno, and she’s on top cuz she’s smaller.”
Tytiana struggles in so many ways. But that day was different. Tytiana wasn’t struggling. She was noticed. She was noticed and smiled at and respected. And by the way, her writing has amazing voice!