I always loved to write but didn’t think I wrote well. I wrote like I talked. It was fast, funny, and filled with grammatical nightmares. With undiagnosed ADHD, I’d be jumping all around the page, scattered and unorganized, but I loved to write. I was a good story teller. I still am. My friends will not tell you that patience is one of my virtues ( Meditation has its limits). Creativity was my gift, but silly rules always got in the way. They still do. (I’m sure I’ve broken some here.) As a result I didn’t write for many years unless it was for a college or graduate school assignment. I do however, have a room filled with journals where one could learn all about the most intimate issues in my life. In my will and last testament, my sister will be directed to have a book burning, unless of course I manage to become the next R.K. Rowling, whereby my memoirs will be a Southeby or ebay sensation.
I digress (I warned you.)
So, one day, many moons ago, I was perusing the books at Barnes and Noble. Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg, literally fell from the third shelf. I don’t believe in coincidence. I opened the book right smack in the middle. It seemed to be the kind of book you could start to read no matter where you opened it. The pages had limited text, and the chapters were short. I, like my students, appreciate brevity. Inspiration once again was mine. The book was about “no-rules” writing. I couldn’t imagine that. Soon after I found Natalie’s book, I found Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, another guiding light. Soon I found a plethora of writing books that I call, “no-rules,” books. I thought this type of writing had to be great for students. I took all of what I learned from the, “no-rules” writers, and used it with my special education kids. These are the kids who hate to write, the kid-dos with dyslexia, high-functioning autism, ADHD, and so on.
Writing is one of hardest subjects to teach children. Reading comprehension is right next to it. They are inseparable like the back and palm of your hand. As teachers, we don’t spend enough time on either one.
After reading the “no-rules'” books, I decided to dedicate my lunch hour to writing with any child who would come. Word got around and pretty soon I had about 15 students writing on their lunch hour. They called me the Pied Piper of Lunch. One day I asked Wrena, a sixth grade student what she thought we should we call our class and she boldly answered,