Tattooed Paper

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I think fiction saved my life. Looking back on all the ways my life might have gone. The paths and choices I made. I feel fortunate to end up in a place where I feel surrounded by love, music, and art. Fiction made the non-fiction freak show of my life easier to get through.

The memories of being huddled up under a blanket with a flash light reading. Of turning the pages of comics and books. The characters who formed in my brain and became my guides. The stories which became my world. Fiction was the one constant.

In third grade I began to carry a journal with me everywhere. Reading had turned into writing. The creations of worlds not my own became one of the only joys I brought into adulthood. The sound of a pen digging into the paper as the words flowed out of me was like music. My concentration and determination so bold and powerful I would leave marks on the paper beneath the one I was writing on. I tattooed that paper, I left part of myself on every sheet.

It is what I hate about most classrooms today. It can suck the very life out of our students passions. Students who I know are no different than me. Searching for adulthood. Trying to find the path and the passion they can follow down. It has always been this way. I can remember teachers telling me I wouldn’t be a writer. Teachers telling me I was a failure. I didn’t have a teacher take an interest in my writing until high school.

It needs to stop. We need to encourage students to be great at what inspires them. Build a core foundation of knowledge. Teach them learning new things is exciting and interesting. Turn them loose on what brings them joy.

Today I watched a young girl (10 years old) drawing a horse. She had a book open and was sketching it on a piece of paper. It was beautiful and inspiring. As I watched her my heart skipped a beat. Her joy was leaking out of every pore in her body. When I sat down and talked to her about her art it became obvious no one had ever really told her how good she was. Not one adult had talked to her about what she might be able to do if she kept at it.

I brought her over to the computer and began showing her different styles and talking to her about what she likes to draw but I knew I could never teach her. I can’t draw stickmen. Luckily, Molly Crabapple came to my rescue and gave me some book suggestions. I quickly ordered them from Amazon. I talked to the young girl’s mom after school and was ecstatic her mom wanted to pursue it.

I hope she never loses her joy. No matter what happens it is the joy which makes the hard work worth it. I lost my joy in writing for a little while. Let it slip through my fingers like grains of sand. Then one day I sat down and began to create. Began to weave and play with words. My heart opened up to the joy. The electricity tingled off my fingertips. We need to encourage the youth of the world to be kind, to care about others, to find their passion. I am always watching my students hoping they will give me signs. Clues to what they love. I don’t know what might save their lives but fiction saved mine.

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About csdaley

C.S. Daley was born in California but has spent most of his life in his imagination. His first short story written in third grade, the now classic "Close Encounters of the Turd Kind," was sold to his next door neighbor for a quarter. The neighbor promptly demanded a refund. An unhealthy obsession with the writings of Neil Gaiman, Christopher Moore, and Terry Pratchett have left his mind warped and broken. He spends most of his evening swilling down coffee while tapping at a keyboard under the watchful eyes of his kittens. They are there to make sure he doesn't snap. He likes to write fantasy for adults and teens.

6 Responses to “Tattooed Paper”

  1. >Seriously, I wish my sons had you as a teacher. They are both very bright and creative, but also have some ED issues. I feel as though they hit a wall in middle school and that all joy was suddenly yanked out from beneath them. Your students are really fortunate to have a teacher who looks for that spark and then nurtures it. Have you considered being cloned sir?

  2. >It breaks my heart to hear a child's confidence torn down by teachers or parents which, sadly, is quite common.One issue that annoys me about the current education system is the exclusivity of these gifted and talented programs. I was excluded from such a program just in elementary school because I came as a new student and didn't join at the start of the school year. Then, in middle school, my Algebra teacher recommended me to MENSA. At the first meeting I was told I could not join because I did not look enough like a minority (even though I am). My daughter was denied admission to GATE because she wasn't gifted enough in math even though she excels on math and science. What kind of message does this type of exclusion send to the kids who are denied? You aren't gifted or talented at all? There are many kids who are gifted in ways that aren't measured by standardized tests, like the girl you described. A person with drawing talent is a commodity in engineering and design jobs. I know kids who can take apart and figure out how the stereo works. These hands-on types don't handle sitting in one position for very long and many are labeled ADD and given drugs that suppress their natural abilities. These are the kids who could do really well in electronics and other technically challenging careers. I am a mom and I watch my kids closely taking note of what they excel at what interests them. I would never dream of telling them they couldn't do something they want to do. We need to look more for potential than faults and stop sending kids the message that they are less talented or valuable because they don't fit into some cookie cutter template of what talent is.

  3. >Christopher, I LOVE this. I hope my son has a teacher that cares so much about him. I hope to inspire his passions as well. I've watched my inlaws crush my husbands and his brothers dreams over and over. Encouragment is easy to give, and you have SO much to learn, even from failure.Thank you. For caring 🙂

  4. >wow that is so great of you! even buying her books and stuff and talking to her mom about it! you are an awesome teacher! ive had teachers do little things for me, like in 6th grade letting me have a special pass to go to the library whenever i was bored (often) or 3rd grade, where we learned at stations of creative stuff & peer teaching rather than the usual way of learning (we all loved school) or actually 1st and 2nd grade where we had little structured learning hmm no wonder i loved school in VT then hated it once i moved to NH midway through 3rd grade. im sure that girl really appreciates you and will later on grown up as a great artist.

  5. >This is a wonderful post. I had some great teachers who encouraged me to follow my passions and I had some really crappy teachers who could have cared less. I love that you did some research, ordered books and followed up with her parents. I wish more teachers paid attention and took an interest in their students. Because it really is all about the joy!

  6. >Just a little follow up for anyone who is interested. The first art book came yesterday and I gave it to the student.It was priceless. She looked through it and her eyes got all bugged out. I told her she didn't have to know it all by tomorrow. She had plenty of time and many years to learn it.This made her smile and she gleefully skipped back to her desk and stuffed the book in her bag. It made me smile.

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