Letters from the Field

June 25, 2012 | 826 Blog Post

Last week, I received an email from Ben Curran, a teacher at University Preparatory Academy in Detroit. We’ve been working with Ben and his class for the last five springs or so, always doing some outlandish, ridiculous, and occasionally unwieldy creative writing workshop. From mystery writing (complete with crime lab!) to creating a catalog (complete with the Flame-Boy II!) to social justice (complete with actual rally and protest in front of the school!), Ben has been one of our very favorite teachers to collaborate with.

Ben is moving positions at UPA next year, which makes me both extremely excited and incredibly sad. Our work in Ben’s classroom is something I’ve come to look forward to every spring. Here’s his update…

— Editor Amy (S)

So my new job will be to help teachers improve their practice. I will be going into teachers’ classrooms to observe and then meeting with teachers to help them “raise the bar,” the best that I can. I’ll also be helping them with all the behind the scenes work, mainly planning lessons and units. I’ll also be available to model lessons for them, etc.

I am not sure if I’m qualified for this new job or not. But I really think it’s an opportunity to help my school and my district. So I’m pretty excited about it. I will say that it’s difficult to think about leaving the classroom…it won’t be nearly the same, but I think I’m making a bigger impact, and so that’s something that inspires me.

It’s a HUGE compliment when you say that I’m the only teacher “in support of weird ideas.”…it means a lot. When you say that do you mean at UPA or, like, anywhere? Because I wear that as a badge of honor. And let me explain why…I believe that what 826 strives for, getting kids excited about and excelling at writing, is a MAJOR undertaking. And I believe you guys are successful at it…to the one-hundredth power. I will go as far as to say that there are few things that I believe in more than what 826 stands for. There aren’t a whole lot of organizations whose philosophies and/or points of view align with mine as well as 826’s does. And I follow not just what you guys do in Ann Arbor, but I follow the other branches’ blogs, too. 826 is amazing, and I’m so proud to have been a part of it in a small way. You guys “get” me…and I “get” you, and it’s a beautiful thing. A match made in heaven, dare I say?

Anyway, I’m willing to try “anything” because the outcome is so critical…getting kids to love writing. I have come to believe, after nearly twelve years in the classroom, that if a kid can write well, there’s very little that he or she can’t do.

The biggest reason I like the “craziness” is because the objectives are so solid. Bulletproof watch? (was it a watch?)…persuasive & descriptive writing. Protest?…social justice. I was very proud of the blog posts my students created as an off-shoot of that. Cabo del Cabo? My kids wrote some great “This I Believe” pieces that I was also proud of. Everything was always done in the name of great writing.

I could go on and on, but I fear it would just become redundant. I really think we need to continue to work together. Okay, Amy, I think that’s enough for now! Hope I answered all of your questions. Let me know.

Take care,

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