I created my Turning Points Personal Narrative Process after being challenged by a group of sixth graders who told me they did not like to write. As a young teacher, I discovered the literacy connection between speaking, reading and writing. My students learned to embrace writing because I allowed them to “orally write and edit” their stories before physically writing them down. But I had learned how powerful the storytelling and story writing connection was many years before I became a classroom teacher. It was actually the genius of my mother when I was a young struggling student that turned me into a confident writer. Here’s the story…
Mom, I’m Bored
In third grade I had a teacher who used a big red pen when she graded our writing. I was struggling as a young writer and the red markings on my work did not do anything to build my confidence. At the end of that school year my language grades were low and so was my self-esteem. My mother knew that I was struggling with writing and she knew she had to do something to help me before I entered the fourth grade. I didn’t know then that my mother was a genius.
On a hot July day, the summer that I was entering fourth grade, I made the mistake of walking into the kitchen where my mother was making sandwiches and saying, “Mom, I’m bored!” Usually, when I told her that I was bored she would hand me one of two things; the toilet brush or the vacuum cleaner. That day, she didn’t hand me either of those things. Instead, she went into her closet and handed me a hand-painted, wooden box. “What do you want me to do with this?” I asked. “I want you to go outside every day this summer and have an adventure.” She answered. Puzzled, I said, “What do you mean?” My mother explained, “I want you to go outside each day and try something new…something you have never done before, but don’t get hurt, and don’t get in trouble! When you try something new, I want you to choose an object that helps you remember what you did, put it in this box, and bring it home to me. I will try to guess what you were doing.
I was very excited about this idea. I was going to try to stump my mother so she never knew what I was up to.
Each day that summer, I went out seeking adventures and each day, I put an object in my box. At night before bed my mother would attempt a guess but she never succeeded. I would have to tell her the story of my adventure and then write about it. By the end of the summer I had twenty-two objects in my adventure box and twenty-two stories in that journal.
On the morning of the first day of school, I walked into the fourth grade classroom with the adventure box in one hand and my journal in the other. I held them both out to my new teacher and announced, “Mrs. Stebbins, I’m a writer!” She said, “That’s very good to hear.” I said, “No, you don’t understand. When I left third grade I wasn’t a writer, and now I am.” That dear woman took my journal home with her on the first day of school and read every story that I had written during the summer. On the next blank page there was a note from Mrs. Stebbins and it was NOT written in red ink. It said, “Jenifer: Not only are you a writer, but you are a good one. I look forward to reading more of your stories this year, in the fourth grade.”
Read longer version of this article called MOM, I’m Bored written for Families First Monthly Magazine.
I may not have known it then, but that was truly the beginning of my career as a teacher, storyteller, writer and Narrative Consultant. If you would like to discover and write your personal story, contact me to schedule consulting or a Turning Points Workshop.