At this time of giving thanks, I indeed give thanks for the privilege of teaching six bright students.
Harry and Joel are from China; Tuan and Vy from Vietnam; Michelle emigrated with her family from Pakistan and is now an American citizen; Ashley is Philly home-grown.
I am thankful because writing — real writing — matters to each of them. They refuse to be dumbed down by the kind of writing obsessively and obsequiously favored by too many kids through texting, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Each has evinced a propensity to think critically and creatively to produce the heft, depth, and breadth that results in meaningful, substantive writing. Each exercises a healthy attitude toward language, recognizing its power to persuade, dissuade, enrage, engage, inspire, aspire, heal, feel, laugh, cry.
Here's what I mean:
Harry King: "I consider writing an important part of my learning and thinking process in helping me to become a braver and stronger person, just like a towering tree which continually grows toward sunlight. I will never stop learning, never lessen my enthusiasm in applying my strengths and wisdom to benefit local and global communities. It is my self-declared destiny to make the world a better place."
Michelle Gill: "I think God has given me the ability and the opportunity to reach out to people and inspire them. I try to do this on the basketball court by making people not only see me as a good player but also as a good person. In the cafeteria after a game in which I had been on fire shooting threes, a classmate told me he felt my experience and wanted to be like me. I felt I had inspired him in some way. Writing stories will help me connect with others in many ways."
Joel Chen: "Writing is one of the best ways to express my thoughts and opinions more clearly. When I was young, my father wanted me to become a doctor. I wasn't sure. Later I began to explore physics more deeply, and a bold idea was growing: I wanted to be an engineer. I told my father. He sighed disappointingly, then said, 'OK, but don't give up on your dream.' I haven't."
Vy Le: "Writing allows me to express my thoughts, feelings, and perspectives without having to still them. It has helped me improve my critical thinking skills, even though at times I am an over-thinker. Insecurities and intuition persistently tell me to make everything I do perfect. There are those nights my sleep is hijacked by my thoughts, and sometimes I would get out of bed in the middle of the night just to finish or make better an assignment. I imprison myself at times by thinking too much."
Ashley Eatman: "One day I hope to write a novel. I am an avid reader. Just like writing is important, so is reading. I need to realize not only how to write well, but also to know that what I write is something someone will want to read. I am very comfortable with books."
Tuan Anh Cao: "I am a caregiver. Many of my friends are international students and were homesick when they came to the United States. My closest friend was very lonely and missed his parents. When hanging out with him, I tried to get him to forget all about his loneliness. His mood began changing; he felt protected. I was once like him. I wrote about it"
So, yes, real writing matters to some of our young. It will elevate their literacy, their critical thinking, their self-confidence, indeed their imagination as adults. Writing will connect them to others, to their world — and, more important, to a better sense of themselves.
It's easy to discern why I am thankful.