My ears are full of the sounds of my students’ words, their memories of reading and writing in school. Red ink spilled on their precious words. First instinct of their teachers to correct rather than connect.
I have been angry about writing for years, one student writes. My hatred of reading and writing grew deep, another says. It’s so beautiful, I have to read that line twice. My hatred of reading and writing grew deep.
They will get their papers back tomorrow, covered in blue ink. I will see them begin to wilt under the weight of so many of my words in their margins, but then they will begin to read. And I will see them sit up straighter, begin to smile.
My words fill the silence of their margins with “Wow!” and “Ha!” and “I’m so sorry that happened to you!” and “This is so fascinating. Can you tell me more?” and “Beautiful line” and “This sentence stopped me in my tracks” and “I can really see this now.” I write all over their papers, and every mark connects.
I’m not a writer, they tell me. To me, their papers say otherwise.
In the few weeks we have together, I can’t undo the silence they’ve grown into as readers and writers. But I can listen to their words, listen between their words, try to coax the writers they truly are out of hiding.