Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Importance of Yes - #celebratelu

[The Celebrate Link-up is hosted by Ruth Ayres on her blog. Join in each Saturday with your own post about celebrations.]

Yesterday, Linda Urban joined my students’ RIF Pizza Party. It was, easily, one of the highlights of their year. They’ll never forget that she said yes.

You don't have to spend a lot of time with Linda to recognize that she is a special person. If you’ve met Linda, you know what I mean. She radiates energy and positivity. (Every time I talk to her, I find myself hoping a little will rub off on me!) When you talk to Linda, you know she is listening. When you listen to Linda, you hear her genuine nature. She is honest, humorous, and respectful of young people. This is a stand out quality. She appreciates kids. (It’s no wonder she is able to capture their hearts and minds so adeptly in her work.) I’ve been fortunate to connect with Linda and to share my students with her. She has helped me to make their literate lives richer.

My students have come to know Linda through email exchanges over the last five months. She has shared writing experiences and excerpts related to her books and her current work in progress with them. They have sent her notes of encouragement in this long stage of revision, offered their opinions as readers, and posed questions as writers—about everything from suggestions for revision to wonderings about critical friends to curiosities about the publishing process.

However, as the students became more involved in the writing exchange and their enthusiasm built, they began to voice an inevitable wish, and addressing it had been an unspoken concern of my mine. When, they wanted to know, could they meet Linda? Would I invite her to come to our school? (It didn’t help that a recent email had highlighted Linda’s school visits in Michigan and California!) I danced my way through explaining the real world of author visit fees and lack of funding for such visits at our school. And mostly, it seemed, they understood. Until weeks later when we were composing an email to Linda and our class had just been announced the winners of the RIF reading contest. As the winning class, they would be treated to a Pizza Party, and…HEY! Couldn’t they invite Linda to come?!

If you’re chuckling to yourself or even laughing out loud, then maybe you understand my reaction to their request. My adult mind was swarming with imagined ideas about how busy Linda probably was and about how dismissive of her schedule and position as an author it might seem to make such a suggestion. To this point, I had done really well at transcribing their actual words and responses to her in our emails, no matter how tempting it was to “fix it up” and insert adult politeness. To be entirely honest, if not for the other support staff that were present that day, I probably would have made an excuse for why it wasn’t appropriate to ask. But in the end, I honored the students’ wishes, and though my mouse hovered over the “send” button for a long while (Imagine the thickening anticipation of my students!), I did send the email that invited Linda to the students’ Pizza Party. And then I immediately started preparing them for possible disappointment.

I admit: when Linda’s response came, I peeked. 
And then I grinned.
She had found a just right answer for my 27 hopeful ten-year olds.

The next day when we opened the email together and read her answer, the students whooped with excitement at her suggestion that she make her own pizza and join their party through Skype. They floated with untethered joy, balloons popping up one after the other. “She said YES!” they cheered at me, maybe respectfully saying, I told you so.

Yesterday, Linda Urban joined my students’ RIF Pizza Party. Their Skype was comfortable and easy-going. They smiled a lot (I smiled a lot) and the candidness with which shared their literacy lives with her reflected to me they felt important, valued, special. Linda is an author they appreciate and respect, and she made time to talk—and listen. They’ll never forget that she said yes.

And now I'm thinking... Do I say yes as often as possible? Do I let my "adult" voice inhibit opportunities? In what ways could I grow more hope and inspiration if I said yes more often?

Today I celebrate this:
  • I celebrate the growth my students have made as readers and writers through the discovery of favorite authors and books.
  • I celebrate the generosity of Linda and other authors who truly appreciate the value of connecting to readers and what students have to offer.
  • I celebrate the importance of saying “yes” at the right time, to the hope that “yes” inspires, and the sense of worthiness “yes” provides to our students.

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