Maybe the original idea for this gallery came from Hidden Gems by Katherine Bomer, or maybe it came from my last day at Columbia University’s Writing Project with Chris Lehman. My teaching life has been flipped upside down in the best of ways this year. Celebrating has been at the heart of it, and after two formal Writer’s Galleries in my classroom, I felt these eighth graders deserved a little more. Regardless of how the idea came about, I certainly did not realize what it would become . . .
It all started after Easter, true to form I asked the kids to generate ideas about what they would write about. We talked about the importance of writing strengths, we wrote seed ideas for some, we made mini-plans; we did what was natural. Then we chose our topics and drafted.
At this point we camped out with revision; we had Stacy and Evan visit our room to help us—I researched how to revise poetry. Our pieces were shifting, they were becoming stronger—we were talking more, giving good feedback and pushing each other; we all wanted the gallery to be good. By the time we got to editing, I could feel my nerves rising. We brought in Courtney for event planning and organization/mounting of their pieces in the gallery. When I tell you these kids worked hard on these pieces, I want you to know—they worked hard.
On the day of the gallery, we arrived (Courtney, Hannah, & I) at Café 110 around noon. Dressed in workout clothes and sweating from the lack of air conditioning, I looked at the blank walls and the huge stack of pieces. Doubt poured through ever fiber of my being. Would people come? Would they point out the two spelling mistakes I just saw? Would people just “hang out” and read nothing, negating the purpose of the event altogether? But regardless of the questions hanging in the thick air around me, I would have to press on; the event had 189 reservations—too much to cancel for tonight.
The three of us, moved through the afternoon, talk was quick and focused. As I pressed the sticky tack against the walls, I would look at the pieces and hear my heart pounding. I saw the countless revisions. I saw their work on sentence structure. I remembered asking them why this was important to share. It was then that I got it. This work, written by my students needed to be there, outside of the school, in a gallery. I needed to say with my actions, you’re right, this is important to share—I believe in you. Student by student the pieces went on the walls next to a nametag that bore the phrase, Featured Author. If we didn’t need to move so fast, I would have turned to mush weeping at the power of the affirmation of putting their words on the wall.
In no time at all, I was getting dressed and heading downstairs. At five o’clock exactly the first guests began to arrive. The rooms began to fill; my heart began to race. Soon, I was greeting people and hugging students (Have I ever mentioned that social situations like this give me anxiety? I don’t like parties of more than three, seriously what was I thinking?)
I wish I could tell you something that someone said to me that night; I wish I could describe a student’s face or tell you about the parents I saw cry over their child’s written words. But I can’t, it’s a blur.
But here is what I can tell you, people came, and lucky for me they wrote comment cards. I want to leave you with some of these comments typed out—they warmed my heart, they reminded me why I do what I do, they validated my theory that celebrating kids is one of the most important jobs a teacher can do.
You have been a wonderful inspiration to_______. I feel she has really grown in her writing this year. You made her year.
My daughter and I teared up reading your letter. Thank you for this opportunity!
I never knew my daughter could write like that.
Every part of this night had a definite “touch of class”
This was a beautiful event that shows how much you care about your students.
I never knew my son felt that way about life.
Tonight felt so professional. I love being a real author.
I would have loved to be part of this when I was in 8th grade or any grade! These kids write incredibly!
Each child captured their heart and put it on a page. The beauty of their writing caught me off guard.
To see more AMAZING pictures of the night, Click here: Twenty:5, A Writer’s Gallery.
A Few Important Thank You Shout-Outs!
This night would not have happened without you . . .
Cafe 110- Thank you for your amazing service and your willingness to help pull this event off!
Courtney- Event planning, Organizational Support, Invitations, umm Everything?
Hannah- Lovability, Day of Event Everything Go to Girl, People Counting, & Did I mention love?
Matt- Parking & Ballons!
Mr.Cressman & Ms. Tashner- Parents and Amazing Photographers
Evan & Stacy- Revision & Coming up beside me when this idea was just a dream, oh how I am thankful for you!
Columbia University, Chris Lehman, & Katherine Bomer- Teaching me that I can be the kind of teacher who does stuff like this!
Carolyn- Everyday classroom help, I couldn’t have done it without you!
Ryan, Lauren, Amy, Omar, Devon, Mr.Bramhall, Hannah, & Courtney- Event Clean-Up!
Mom- Believing in me, teaching me to treasure and affirm.