Today was my absolute favorite school holiday- I Heart Writing. A few years ago my school decided to dedicate one day to a writing celebration. Everyone has something to share, whether it is a published piece, a folder full of their writing, or a class-produced story. Every child is given an "I Heart Writing" button to wear and we all proudly puff up our chests and share our writing.
Over the years I've noticed that the first grade gets more exciting about this than any other grade. The teachers have their own matching I Heart Writing shirts, the first graders come more dressed up, and the first grade classrooms are elaborately decorated to celebrate the day. Maybe it's something about the nature of first grade- the kids are really, truly more independent than they have been in the past, and for the first time are really producing meaningful writing other people can read.
My amazing first grade co-teacher created the most magical environment this morning. A short table become a stage with a music stand as a podium. She created the red-carpet experience by rolling red bulletin board paper across the door frame, and covered the room with hearts, streamers, and signs.
The kids started arriving this morning with a reverent excitement. Many of the girls showed off their dresses, skirts, or pink tights. One of my friends came in his dress pants, a fancy shirt, and a leather jacket. He was incredibly handsome, and he knew it. Later I asked him if it it was his mother's idea to dress up for the day. "Nope," he said, "It was mine. I wanted to be handsome."
A few minutes later another girl arrived, in a long white skirt with a shiny white top, along with silver shoes that matched her silver nail polish. A stylish white hat sat on top of her head like a crown, but her smile out shone her clothes. She was beautiful, this was her day, and she was ready.
The children shared their published pieces one by one, carefully stepping up onto the stage to read to the audience. Some demanded applause, "Ok, you can clap now!", some were shy, some proudly showed off each picture they'd drawn, and drew the audience's attention to particular details in the picture just in case we'd missed it. Most bowed multiple times from the stage, fully getting into the spirit of the event.
Our star though was our friend who showed up in white. I've never seen a first grader with such stage presence. She proudly stood up on the stage, thanked her parents and the other visitors for coming. She thanked our principal and blew kisses to the teachers. All with the calm, determined and respectful voice of a true star. Before she began she explained that her inspiration for her story was to show that any problem can be solved, just like it is in her book.
I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes. She hasn't had any easy life- none of our kids have. But it's that kind of confidence and pose that will carry her far in life, and will carry that message to the rest of us.
The morning was truly magical. The kids knew they were stars and accepted that responsibility. They complemented one another on their clothing, their writing, and for sitting quietly in the audience. Even when I saw them at the end of the day the story teller was still wishing me a "Happy I Heart Writing Day!"
I love that our school created a holiday that essential celebrates not just hard work, but each child's own written story- sending the message that each child not just has a story to tell, but that each story is also important and worthy of celebration.