How my story turned into a class project and gave me hope for the next generation

Several months ago, I posted a story I had written about a young girl who imagines she can follow in the path (or, actually, the wake) of three French Canadians who sailed a raft across the Atlantic back in 1956.

I heard about their story on the news one night and was immediately inspired. I could see in my mind’s eye a little girl on a rural Nova Scotian farm, hearing about the men’s voyage on the news and setting out to build her own raft.

I received some kind and supportive comments when I posted my story, with a few people suggesting that I combine it with pictures and publish it as a children’s book.

I’m still not quite sure how to go about the publishing part, but I spoke to my son’s teacher about reading the story to the class (grade 3/4) and maybe getting the kids to draw some pictures. I thought at the very least it might be fun for them to do, but that maybe some of the pictures could be used to illustrate the book – if ever I figure out how to do that part.

My son helped me edit it over Christmas and today was the day I went in to read it.

I began, with my son as my assistant, by explaining that I write mostly boring things at work but that I write fun things, like stories, for myself and post them online. I explained to them that back when their grandparents were kids, three men built a raft and sailed it from Halifax to Cornwall, with two kittens, in 88 days. I showed them Halifax and Cornwall on a map. I showed them pictures of the raft, the men and the kittens. One of the kids in the class mentioned that his dad, who is quite the explorer and adventurer himself, is reading the book written by one of the men from the expedition.

Then I read them my story.

They were so good; everyone listened attentively, smiling at times, and the teacher was at great pains to emphasize that I had written this story myself.

With touching enthusiasm, he suggested that the children illustrate what will become a story book. They are to draw pictures of the different scenes in the story and will then give them to me so that my son and I can put them together, interspersed with the text, in book form. We’re going to colour copy and bind them so that each kid can have their own copy of the book.

Isn’t that a great idea!?

The teacher is looking into using one of the school’s display cases to lay out the stages for what has become “our project”: the news story, the short story, the children’s drawings, an explanation of how we put the book together, and the book itself. And he has asked my son to consider taking the book to read to some of the younger classes.

I’m flattered and thrilled that a story I wrote one evening has blossomed into a class project. And I’m impressed at the thought and care these children have put into their artwork. Many of the drawings are really magnificent, each one is unique and they have all written a little explanation to go with them.

What a great outcome!

I often despair, like an old lady, about the “kids these days.” But today gave me some hope.

I know these kids; I’ve been on field trips with them and I’ve hung out in their classroom before. They’re not always perfectly behaved – they are kids after all! But they’re good kids, and they can be well-behaved, well-mannered and respectful.

It was a pleasure to interact with them today, to see how earnestly they strove to contribute to the project, how pleased they were when I told them how much I liked what they were doing, and to watch them present their ideas with creativity and enthusiasm.

It made me think that maybe each generation is more like the one that went before than we realize. Maybe we’re not all that different from our parents and maybe our kids aren’t all that different from the way we were at their age.

Perspectives change, influences and culture changes, but kids are still kids. They are the future of our world, and they will grow up, just as previous generations have, to fill all the many roles that there will be to fill.

And they will do fine, probably better than we give them credit for.

They will face their own challenges and successes, just as we have, just as our parents did.

They will notice the generation gap between themselves and their children, and may wonder why the younger generation listens to the music it does, or how it could appreciate the cultural idiosyncrasies of its time.

This is the cycle of things. It is the nature of generations.

Though parenting may be difficult, and at times frustrating, hanging out with the younger generation can be refreshing, eye-opening and uplifting.

When the book is all done, I’ll post the pictures.



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