I visited my daughter’s school this morning to do a workshop on revision. The kid were high schoolers and I think they liked me because I let them play with Play Dough the whole time. I was trying to show them revision is nothing more than playing with what you already have. (The dough was supposed to represent your draft.) If nothing else, maybe they thought I was cool because I wore a shirt that showed off my wrist tattoo. (Please tell me tattoos are still cool!)
Anyway, I brought a few examples of my own writing to share. During the part of the lesson where I talked about revising your “take away” value, I began to read an essay I wrote about Baylee Almon.
“I know Baylee,” I read, “in the way most people know Baylee - through a photo. Baylee Almon was the limp baby with tiny, white socks, who was carried by a firefighter away from the Alfred Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. She was one year and one day old when she died.”
“Wait,” one of the kids interrupted, “Baylee was real?”
I looked at the teacher and he looked at me. Without any further communication than that, the teacher went to his computer and pulled up the photo along with a photo of the decimated building. The kids - who were all babies when the Oklahoma bombing happened - were shocked and angry and full of questions. So I dropped the lesson on revision and we spent a few mintues talking about the tragedy.
I wasn’t frustrated by the impromptu history lesson. As a former teacher and parent I know the best learning takes place when you least except it and don’t plan for it.
Besides, writing is like that, too. Sometimes you start off one path and wander onto another. And more often than not, that new path is the one you needed to take all along.