*Disclaimer: Huge fan = Huge bias
Last year I sent my first cold email to an author, and I had my first experience at internet stalking for the sake of my students. I had done it before when working for Corporate Donations at the MS Society, but never used those skills for school. My stalking lead me to the kindest, most grounded, coolest lady: Kyo Maclear.
My sister had suggested that I check out her book Spork! She thought the story would be perfect for a my class. I teach in the densest and most diversly populated part of Canada. My school is very urban and very Canadian. Spork deals with themes of mixed heritage and fitting in… perfect for my students.
I made contact with Kyo and invited her to come to visit my class. She gave the most heartfelt, poignant talk about her book. The most impressive part of her visit was when she talked about her writing process. She talked about the people that she wrote for, and the stories that she wanted to tell them. She talked about purpose and audience. She also gave the students very real examples of the editing process. She brought in sketches, original drafts and even some cutlery that she used for inspiration.
This year I invited her back to talk about another one of her books: Virginia Wolf. A story about helping close ones through sadness. It was wonderful! I read the story with her, and she shared her inspiration for the story with the students. She has such a great way of making writing meaningful.
At the end of the lesson she encouraged the students to think of the things that make them feel better when they’re down in the dumps… Like Virginia, everyone gets sad, but with some help, people can get better. Kyo mentioned that she has something that she calls a glad box. She talked about some items that she puts in it to make her happy when she’s feeling “wolfish”. The kids had a chance to draw items into their own glad boxes and Kyo went around to talk with them… it was a beatiful moment.
(*Used with permission from Kyo Maclear)
As I watched this happen I couldn’t believe how deeply connected Kyo was to her book. It made me think about these words in a completely different way:
(*Taken from Ontario’s language curriculum document. Strand = reading)
The connection she evoked from the children wasn’t forced or fake. No silly reading response strategies were necessary. She shared her deep feelings and made it safe for the kids to share theirs.
Kyo told me a about a teacher that extended the glad box idea even further. She had made a corner of her room into Bloomsburry (the place where Vanessa and Virginia imagine themselves off to … a place that they create to help Virginia to feel less wolfish). Children brought in items to make this a happy and peaceful part of the room.
This idea matched really nicely with a lot of the Third Teacher reading that I have been doing lately. I really like the idea of space not only reflecting the needs of users, but also helping users in some way. Food for thought. Maybe next year I’ll use this book at the very beginning of the year to help us shape our room for the year.
But now I’m getting off topic.
It was a gift to spend some time with her, and I’m going to find a way to get her back to my school as soon as possible.