Monday, January 7, 2019

writing in the real world

Gabe's letter to Santa, complaining about his mom

We spent Christmas with our son and his family in Arizona. As part of that visit, I was able to see my grandchildren use writing for meaningful purposes in their lives--and I couldn't have been happier! On Christmas Eve, Tatum (5) wrote a note to Santa's elves. She wanted to make sure they wouldn't eat the gingerbread houses she and Gabe had made. Her note says: Dear elves: Please do not eat our gingerbread houses. I don't want you to eat it so you should not eat it. Love, Tatum. (spelling corrected).
Gabe's was written around the same time, to Santa. I had heard the exchange when he was asking his mom about why Tatum got to stay up as late as he did (he's 10). In exasperation (and humor), she said something like "I must like her more than you." A little while later, the letter pictured above appeared on the counter: Dear Santa, Today my mom told me that she likes Tatum more than me. I really don't think that's fair. I do all kinds of stuff for her. I babysit, do chores, make breakfast, make dinner. I also make my sisters happy. Please write back telling my mom not to have favorites. The good boy, Gabe.
Now, I know that Gabe is secure in his mother's affections, so I can see the humor in the situation. I also think that it's telling that both of these children see writing as a way to make things happen in the world. How cool is that???
As a writing teacher, I had to notice the different argumentative moves made by the two: Tatum was pretty much saying don't do it because I don't want you to do it--assuming that her desires carry weight with the elves, I suppose. Gabe, however, used evidence. He listed all the things he does to be a good, productive member of the family--to have value--and ended with a call to action: a letter back from Santa reprimanding his mother.
I know I love these two kids, so I find everything they do cute. But I also look at this experience from the perspective of someone who writes and who teaches writing and writing teachers. I love that these two see power in writing. And that they turn to writing to accomplish their own purposes. To me, that is the goal of my teaching--to help writers feel that power and that desire. I am not their teachers, but I am a proud grandmother who is glad someone who believes as I do is teaching my grandchildren!

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