End of the year is write on time

Published 4:40 pm Monday, May 21, 2012

Tatum Sparks, Braden Schrader and Paige Knight during a visit to Valley Elementary School. (Contributed)

By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist

“I am not sure these children’s books are going to happen this year,” I whined. “With competitive writing meeting during study time and not getting grades for their work, those students are committing to work out of the goodness of their hearts, and my creative writers can’t produce 18 children’s books on their own.”

“Your competitive writers are big-hearted,” said my husband. “And those first-graders you’ve committed them to write for are pretty cute!”

Yes, I had committed my students to produce 18 children’s books for Mrs. Haines’s first graders at Valley Elementary School. Bonnie Haines has shared her class with me for several years, allowing me to distribute combination questionnaires and parent letters to get both reading interests and permission to share those interests so that my students can write children’s books as they approach the year’s end in creative writing.

The first-grade students’ answers on the questionnaires, along with photos of the children, motivate my students to write. If work on the children’s books gets slow, I put the smiling elementary-schoolers up on the big screen in my classroom.

“You want to keep these cuties smiling, don’t you?” I ask.

I know I’m booking passage on the cruise ship guilt trip when I urge my students back to work with this tactic, but sometimes a teacher does what a teacher has to do.

With the literary magazine still in production, research papers yet to be graded and scheduling work for next year ongoing, my sanity may depend on early completion of our children’s books. And honestly, I’m not a person who can disappoint little kids.

Shorter class periods have made the end of the year a wind sprint in every class. Finishing the children’s books is another down-to-the-wire task.

With the help of a few literary magazine staffers, my creative and competitive writers manage to load up for our field trip to the elementary school with 18 completed and cute children’s books and leave behind 18 smiling first-graders.

We’re planning a fine arts camp at PHS for the week of June 4-8, where students ages 5-12 will have a chance to write, act and dance with high school students and teachers. Forms are available on my school website.

We believe that the power of mentoring will keep the arts strong in Pelham for generations to come. At PHS, we’re planning for that future.

Connie Nolen can be reached by email at CNolen@Shelbyed.k12.al.us.