“I think I’m not going to eat anymore,” Calder declares, carefully placing the untouched half of his PB&J back onto his plate.
Trying not to allow the smile I felt fully form, I ask, “Why, Buddy?”
Slowly, deliberately, he explains. “Because you keep saying my food makes me get bigger, and I just don’t think I’m ready to get big and go off to college yet.”
“Oh, Buddy! You don’t have to go off to college for a long time! But you do still need to keep eating, otherwise you won’t feel very good at all!” By now, I am not only fully smiling as he happily scoops up his sandwich, but also feeling the tingle of tears at his tender heart and the fact that it will seem all-too-soon that that time will come.
* * *
This past Saturday, I crawled out of bed even earlier than I do each weekday, and headed off to Grand Rapids to spend the day with fellow West Michigan teachers. As a professional development opportunity through the Lake Michigan Writing Project, we came together to read, talk, share and discuss the few hundred manuscripts we were scoring for the Scholastic Art and Writing awards.
Assigned to read middle school short stories, I couldn’t help but think about my own students (and even my own children) as I read. Sitting in a college computer lab, and realizing that before long my former students may be here was so exciting.
Though they don’t say it quite as plainly, I think many of my students want to “stop eating” too – for fear that the world is coming at them so fast. But instead of putting down PB&Js, they blow off projects, or perfect their I-don’t-care attitude. Yet, I know that so many of them really do care.
When I left, Saturday afternoon, I couldn’t help but think that sitting there, reading the pieces I read, I was given a glimpse into what the future will be like for the students I’d be seeing on Monday.
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