Christina Keseru

Teacher – Holy Family School

Englehart, ON

 

Hi Paul,

How are you doing?  I wanted to take a minute to share with you how much you have affected one of my students since your author visit. 

Do you remember me telling you about my grade 5 boy named Seth?  He was working well below grade level for reading and writing.  He never enjoyed reading and struggled to follow along when someone else did the reading out loud.  When we started Popchuck’s Ghost, he was so engaged and loved the story. (I read most of the book aloud to the students as they followed along).  Every time we would get to the stars on the page he would call out, “Duh Duh Duh….!”  This excited me because for the first time, it was visible to me that Seth was following along. 

I also shared with you how after you left he asked me if he could start staying in at recess to read.  The reading lead to the request to stay in and write a story (based on Popchuck’s Ghost).  In the past, I would be so lucky if I could get Seth to write a quarter of a page – and that was with assistance.  He dreaded adding details and had no interest in writing.  You came on April 22.  Last week, nine weeks later, Seth finished writing a 22 page story – completely independently!  Our EA bound it for him so we are calling it a book!

In my 14 years of teaching, I have never encountered such a drastic turnaround in a student as I have with Seth!  He worked so diligently, every single moment he had – class time and free time.  When he was done, he voluntarily sat with Mrs Sherrard, our EA, and spent about a week editing.  We didn’t want to edit too much because we didn’t want the joy of what he had done to be stolen.  However, he vividly remembers hearing how you had your story edited 300 times (can’t remember if that number is accurate) and so he felt it was important to do. 

Seth ran with your idea of not reinventing the wheel, and using characters who represent real people, and adding minor alterations to their names.  He has used your story as a basis for his. And all of his characters are based on children in our class. 

Two days ago, he asked if I could read it to the class.  I did.  The class gave him a standing ovation.  The look on his face was priceless!  Those whose names didn’t make the cut begged him to write another story and include them in it!

I am so excited about and impressed with Seth’s desire to write this story, to create humour, and demonstrate such dedication. 

I am getting Mrs Sherrard to help me download his story and an old story he wrote prior to your visit, so that you can see the difference for yourself.  (It will just take a few days before we can find the time to do this). 

My favourite part of this process is seeing how his confidence has grown.  He commented to Mrs Sherrard that maybe he could even consider being a journalist one day.  (This would have been an unthinkable thought a few months ago).  He has moved up two reading levels and constantly comes to me to share facts he has read in science books (his favourite choice of reading)

I am so proud of this little boy, I could cry.  I believe the affect you had on him has been life changing!  As it currently stands, I have the great pleasure of being his teacher again next year.  I so look forward to fostering even more growth.  But, I wanted you to know it all began with you!  I can’t put into words what you have done for Seth by providing a topic of interest, by demonstrating your own struggles, and by highlighting that the author of the Hardy Boys was local!  Those three things sparked something huge in Seth.

I promised to take a few pics of student work for you as well.  I haven’t forgotten, have just gotten very busy.  Still to come.

Thank you once again!  What you do is so much more than an author talk!  You have altered the way I think about teaching Language to students and have solidified some of my previous understandings.  You have so much to offer – and you did it all in an hour and a half!  I look forward to having you come again next year. 

I will send out the stories some time next week. 

Thanks Paul!