100. What to Write

This is the 100th article I wrote for The Wellesley Townsman. I wrote these in seven months, because I had stored up so much that I wanted to say. I suspect that many teachers and parents store up things they want to say. If you’re a parent, when there is a risk that your children will be embarrassed or otherwise adversely affected by the things you say, you may keep it inside. If you’re a teacher, when you face the possibility that your teaching career will be at risk, you’re careful as well. I thought that some of what I’d stored up would be earth- shaking, iconoclastic, and would spark all kinds of controversy. I thought there would be letters to the editor of The Wellesley Townsman. That didn’t happen, and believe it or not, I wasn’t disappointed. I got appreciative comments from people, and friends urged me to publish my collected articles as a book. I did so.
When I sit with a child who can’t decide what to write about, we start talking. Children who are relaxed usually don’t have any trouble thinking of things to talk about. At first, some children think I’m being manipulative, and I suppose they’re right. One of my ultimate goals is
to help them get started with the writing process. In some children’s minds, writing is hard work for the wrist, fingers, and brain, in no way related to chatting.
I think many teachers have overemphasized the difference between writing and talking. There’s a difference, but the similarities are important. Both have to do with reaching inside, and finding the words that will let other people know what’s in there. Both use the intricacies of language. Saying you have no talent for writing is like saying you have no talent for talking or thinking. Maybe it’s the chronic teacher in me, but I don’t accept the concept of a person who has no talent for writing.
There are differences between writing and talking. For some kinds of communication, including the kind I’m trying to do right now, writing works better. There is a decreased risk of putting my foot in my mouth. It hasn’t happened yet that I can’t think of anything to write an article about, but if it does happen, I’ll talk with a child, teacher, parent, or any adult. They were all children once, and they were all affected by the experience of being a child. And the child who can’t think of anything to write about may notice that there is a scratch on his/her desk. Something must have happened to cause that scratch. What could it have been? Does that scratch have a story? If this subject isn’t interesting to the child, there’s lots of others. Usually the children who have the most trouble deciding what to write have no trouble thinking of things to talk about.
I’m kept writing articles. One hundred is a neat number, but it wasn’t the end of my story; there was a lot more to say. Perhaps if people had twelve fingers instead of ten, I would have considered one hundred forty-four my landmark number. For now, though, I’m going to stop writing and go talk to some people; I’ll talk to you later.

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