This week my students started the third bend of our personal narrative unit. The students were starting a second round of writing personal narratives. I had 30 minutes left of my prep period and I was stuck. For the past few days, I was trying to think of an event to write about for a personal narrative that I could use to model with the students through this final bend. I was tempted to just use one of the pieces I had written before.
I felt like the student who often tells me they have nothing to write about. I even tried to use some of the strategies that I gave my students when we collected ideas. The bigger problem for me was that I wanted to write about a moment that was age appropriate and relatable for 5th graders.
The precious minutes of my prep were quickly disappearing and I made a choice. I reluctantly decided to choose the moment when our family got our dog, Minnie, about 5 years ago. I just didn’t want it to just be another cheesy pet story. As I created my story arc of the events that happened, I wanted to create an arc of the emotions that I went through as well. This was something that the author Sarah Weeks showed us how to do in my summer workshop at Teacher’s College Summer Writing Institute. I created my arc showing the emotions I went through and as I got to the end of my arc, I realized that I felt hopeful.
This moment wasn’t just about our family getting a dog for the first time ever. It happened right before I moved to Korea and my parents were staying in New York. All the kids were out of the house, and this time I would be farther away, than when I left for college. I would be a 13 hour plane ride away along with my brother who moved to Korea a few months earlier. My other brother was away in medical school. I was hopeful because I knew the dog would provide a distraction, but more importantly it would become part of the family. Five years later, I still haven’t moved back to New York, but it’s quite obvious that Minnie is one of us.
A few hours later, when it was time for writing workshop, I shared with my students my story arc of emotions and I unexpectedly felt my eyes getting a bit watery as I shared the deeper meaning of my family getting a dog. There’s something powerful about sharing stories that move your heart with your students.