I am not the “involved” parent at school. I am not part of the PTA. I don’t volunteer in my kids’ classrooms. I don’t go on field trips. I love and appreciate their school dearly, and all of the dedicated staff. I make sure homework gets done, encourage reading, and show up when my kids want to attend some school-sponsored event. But the school never seems to lack for parental involvement, so I am happy to otherwise sit back.
Except for one thing. Once a month, I go into the school for two hours for a Writer’s Workshop. Grade-school kids can sign up to bring a writing project and work with a parent volunteer on anything: brainstorming ideas, editing, adding more details, word choice, etc. Once the story is polished, they can submit the story for “publication” and it is bound and placed in the library. Then late in the year, there is an event where kids can read their published stories aloud.
I am one of those parent volunteers. I don’t particularly love it. I don’t think I am great with kids (teachers — I love you). I am impatient and sometimes bored as kids painstakingly write out their sentences. But I continue to volunteer, because I know that it is a skill set that I have.
Today was not particularly different. The kids traipsed in, with a new batch every 30 minutes, some with notebooks of stories, some with stories typed on Chromebooks, and some with only their ideas. What was different about today for me was that I tried to connect with each kid that sat down, about something other than their story.
- A third-grade boy had a story about a trip he took to Wisconsin with his family. I told him that I am from Wisconsin.
- A second-grade boy was writing a story about a bank robber. He talked about the security cameras the bank would have. I told him that I used to work at a bank and I also had a secret button I could push if a robber came in and it would call the police.
- A fourth-grade boy was writing a story about a “cereal killer” and at the end of his story, the “cereal killer” went to Azakban. I told him that I was also a Harry Potter fan and showed him the lightning bolt tattoo on my wrist — which he thought was awesome.
- Two fourth-grade girls were collaborating on a story, and immersed in finishing it up as a shared Google Doc on their Chromebooks. As they talked, they mentioned Charlotte Doyle. I asked if that was a book they were reading, and they said yes. I asked if the book was “The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle” (it was) and I told them that I had also read that book, many years ago.
All of the kids I saw probably won’t remember me, even a few weeks from now. They were absorbed in their writing and paid little attention to me and the other volunteers in the room. But maybe — just maybe — I gave them a little something today about connecting with a reader.