There’s a student in my grade 5/6 class who is nothing short of brilliant. Where this kid got the extensive vocabulary that he so freely and confidently uses, is beyond me. He is comfortable conversing in complex sentences without ever using “awesome,” “radical,” or “random,” and like many students I meet with daily, does not use the word “like” as a comma. He throws in “dude” now and then, but the word is so competently placed that I smile every time.
Today we were working on “similes.” Students were required to do their best to use imagery to compare objects using “like” or “as.” I received the usual “as strong as an elephant;” “as slow as a turtle;” and “as soft as a marshmallow.” I kept inviting them to go further. How can we make “as slow as a turtle” just a bit slower? We came up with “as slow as a three-legged turtle.” That took some doing. Some didn’t get the idea of similes at all. One girl proudly wrote, “the ice cream was a soft as a baby chick.” I could immediately taste a mouthful of stinky feathers. One fellow surprised me by saying, “he was as strong as a mutant wrestler.” This was way beyond this boy’s usual ability of expression and I couldn’t help but ponder on what he watches on television.
But my student writer….he wowed me. I told the class that some day we’d be lining up at Chapters for autographed copies of his novels. Grade 6 boys don’t usually come up with things like: “as pretty as sunlight exposed jewels"; "as strong as a workhorse looking for a treat"; "as soft as whipped cream made from scratch" or "as slow as maple syrup dipped in starch."
After class, this boy came and told me, for the second day in a row, that I am a great teacher. I thanked him and reinforced my belief in him by telling him he should get a notebook and write every day. He said he would if he had ideas, so I sent him home armed with a list of story starters. And I thought that for one brief moment, that I had reached someone. For it is my highest hope that the atmosphere in my classroom is one of safety, to express, to grow, to be encouraged. Not every student can be a writer. Many struggle with reading, but to move each along the continuum or even to jump start them into a love of reading and writing is my goal as a language teacher.