Tap. Tap. Tap.
Have you felt the silent shoulder tap prompting you to do something?
My taps began in July. I was planning for my upcoming grade 9 English class and considering new opportunities for learning. Tap. Tap. Find ways to connect teens and seniors. Discuss the role that stereotypes play in our lives. Help students understand their role in their community. Every time I picked up a book, a story, or an article I was drawn to selections that explored these ideas.
In late September I traveled to New York City with a team of teachers to visit the annual Maker Faire – an interactive display by passionate learners. The taps struck again. Find authentic writing and publishing opportunities for your students. Take learning beyond your classroom walls.
And so, the inspiration for this intergenerational writing project was born.
With the assistance and encouragement of Katie Prescott – a Literacy Lead with Anglophone School District West – our project was launched. Students began reading and talking about the relationship between teens and seniors. Together, we questioned the stereotypes that try to define us, and we sought to understand how we can move past them.
We reached out to a local seniors’ residence and invited a group to join us in our school library. They each brought a cherished object that had an important memory connected to it. What ensued was a delightful hour of storytelling, listening, connecting, and understanding. The nervous energy in the room quickly melted into comfortable conversation as smiles and laughter dominated the atmosphere. Our guests felt welcomed and valued, and students realized the power of responsibility and service.
The weeks that followed were filled with writing, editing, and rewriting as we sought to carefully craft the stories of our guests. We learned a lot about a writer’s voice and the impact of words. When writing for an authentic audience, precision matters. We wanted these stories to be just right.
As a grade 9 English class at Fredericton High School, we learned many lessons throughout the project, sometimes in unexpected ways:
- We are writers and our words are important.
- We have stories, regardless of our age, and these stories deserve care and respect.
- We are more than stereotypes.
- We can overcome fear and doubt through careful preparation and a determination to succeed.
This project confirmed for me the importance of heeding the silent tap on the shoulder. I witnessed students stepping up to their responsibility in a way that does not happen in a regular classroom environment. The compassion and care demonstrated by my grade 9 students is proof and comfort that our future is in good hands.
Joanne Ward reads through her published story.
Jaylin Bower presents a book to Betty Walker
Valerie Marshall is a grades 9 and 12 English teacher at Fredericton High School. She believes every student has a voice to be heard, a talent to be explored, and an opinion to be valued. Her best days are spent with students, sharing ideas and learning together.
** To see an overview of this project on local media sources, click on the following links:
Initial Interviews with Seniors – CBC Video – November 29th, 2018
Presentation of Books to Seniors – CBC Article – May 20th, 2019