Writing Beside Them

I am trying to live the practices that I learned this summer. I’m trying to be very precise and persistent in holding true to what pedagogical practice and research has shown to be most effective with students, and I’m trying to practice in front of my students.

I gave my grade 11 students an article, “Just Mom” by an Indigenous author, Kahente Horn-Miller in which she spoke of a “bundle of knowledge” gained from her mother, the Mohawk Warrior Princess. I asked students to speak with an elder or coach or someone in their life who had provided them with a “bundle of knowledge” and write a 300 word essay. I told them that I would join them in this writing, and this is what I wrote:

Letters of Hope

by Melanie White

I was never close to either of my grandparents. It’s not surprising, however, given the fact that they lived so far away and we had such infrequent contact. Yet, my father’s mother often figured in my imagination because of her capacity for hope.

She was a very round and smiley women with a full head of curly white hair and a tendency towards silence. I remember her house in Birmingham, England, the same one that my father grew up in during the great depression, the same one that was bombed during WWII, the same one where they found her lifeless body on the stairs from the kitchen, her dead budgie bird in her right hand.

She was 94 years old when she died, but her quiet presence in my life reminded me to always hold on to hope.

I wrote her a letter when I was eleven years old. I was concerned about the state of the world, fearful that the next atom bomb was about to be dropped, or that overpopulation would force the globe out of the orbit of the sun. I wrote the letter initially as a thank you letter for a birthday gift – she never forgot my birthday, or Christmas – but my writing took off in another direction and I wrote pages and pages of concern, somehow knowing that she would send me words of comfort.

She wrote back.

I have seen three wars in my lifetime and lived through the Great Depression, and my life is wonderful. People pull together in difficult times, and the world won’t fall out of the sky. God made sure of that. Everyone is capable of great goodness, and there are young people like you who will change the world. Just hold on to hope.

Love Gram xxx

I thought about her words from the letter and that budgie bird found in her hand and wondered if the bird’s name was Hope. I think that would make her laugh.

5 thoughts on “Writing Beside Them

  1. I think your students are very fortunate to have you open up process in this way for them. I do not teach high school, but I know my own children got this type of instruction from only a few teachers. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I echo Terje’s thoughts: so many levels of things to like about this post. Honestly, though, I love the idea that the bird’s name was Hope – it made me giggle just a little which seemed inappropriate & then completely appropriate all at the same time.

    Liked by 1 person

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