An English Walk

“We went for another walk in English today.” Megan (a sophomore in high school) broke the silence in the car. “We walked all the down Cornell.” She was chuckling at her own reflection on the day. “We took pictures and wrote. I think he calls them Field Journals or something like that.” “Sounds like my kinda teacher!” “Yeah, Mom, I think you’d like Mr. N.”

“A few days later, Megan and I found ourselves watching Mr. N’s open house video after dinner. As I watched and listened, key words and phrases stood out, “choice”, “moving beyond the 5 paragraph essay”, “independent reading”. Megan was right, Mr. N was talking my kinda talk. That lead to Megan sharing her work from that day out “in the field”.

“It’s not good mom, she said, qualifying her work.” “Whatever, Meg, I just want to read what you wrote outside!” Somewhat reluctantly, somewhat proud, she shared her piece.

Over the years, I’ve always read Megan’s writing assignments. There was always purpose in her sharing – “Does this make sense? Can you check this over?” Happy to help, I was the support, the consult. When she shared her Field Journal entry, I was taken by her words “The wind was my friend as I sat. Never leaving me, always gracing me.” Her words made me pause, and think “the wind, my friend – the wind, gracing me never thought of the wind that way.”

Her simple draft in her Field Journal let me know that Mr. N is not just teaching writing – he’s created a space for teenagers to think on paper, he’s given them time to observe the world they live in, he’s given them them a place to play with words. Mr. N is not just teaching writing, he’s nurturing writers.

Thank you, Mr. N.

5 thoughts on “An English Walk”

  1. I bet you’ve already thought about what this could look like in our school…Mr. N sure does sound like your kind of teacher. I can also see you in Megan’s words. She’s been nurtured as a writer before. It’s encouraging to hear about this work and the conversations that are making their way home.

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  2. Lovely! And inspiring for this high school teacher. I’ve been thinking about taking at least one class for an observational walk- we’re in the middle of town, but I can scope out some space, I think… Thank you, Mr. N, thank Megan & thank you, too for the inspiration. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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  3. Wow, kudos to Mr. N and all the writers in the field who will learn and practice so much this year. This post is beautiful, as is your daughter’s field journal and photo.

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  4. This is absolutely beautiful and inspiring. One, to have a daughter who will share such insightful conversation and work with you. Two, to have a high school teacher who truly knows, on a developmental level, how to reach his readers and writers.

    Also…tell your daughter she uses words in such a unique way. I am carrying the mental image with me of that branch, comforted by the wood chips. And any time I see a branch on the ground, I may think hmmm. Perhaps someone was lucky enough to notice it as it fell…

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