Yesterday, during NCTE's National Day on Writing, I stopped by the Oak Room at Fairfield University's campus to catch up with my colleague, Dr. Cinthia Gannett, who has the enormous task of organizing and supervising all the Core English courses for incoming freshmen. This year, in the tradition of celebrating the National Day on Writing, Cinthia organized several sections of EN 11 for students to think about ways writing matters in their life, but also to make connections to the larger theme of water that crossing throughout courses at Fairfield University.
Students set up tables to write poetry, to think about the numerical literacy that can be measured through plastic bottle industries, to explore children's books with water themes, and to reflect on aquatic novels. One of my favorite projects, however, came from one of the sections of freshman English where students photographed images of water and aligned them with quotes from famous writers. These imprints were then made into postcards that were cut out and available for anyone to write a message. Many filled out an address so the postcards could be mailed (the writing program paid for the postage). The result was a collage of images, quotes, and messages to others to think about their place in the universe and on issues of water. Most of the students, I noticed, wrote messages to their parents. Through this ingenuity, they were able to mail a postal hug.
Of all my National Day on Writing events yesterday, the postcard activity made the greatest impact. It was such a simple way to promote communication and activism in a feel good, purposeful way. It reminded me of the assignment I often give where students revise and draft letters to share an opinion, make a demand, or inform a reader When the writing is ready, I mail what they had to say and respond, "There isn't a grade until you get a response. If your words caught the attention of someone else, then I've succeeded in my instruction."
Here's to the innovative ways teachers across the United States are reminding schools that writing matters. Without a doubt, it always has and always will.