2014-03-18

At Denny International Middle School (DIMS), we pride ourselves on the promotion and advancement of a “culture of literacy.” Around every corner and classroom, you will find contest flyers, inspirational quotes, event announcements, and bits of learning all concerning literacy. The teachers and administration all think of literacy as less of a standard to be taught, but more of a cause to be furthered. We want our students to love reading, even find it to be infectious, and write well.

Last year, a City Year corps member named Sam Boutelle was one of many individuals who worked tirelessly alongside teachers and staff to help spread this literary fervor. Sam, however, soon discovered there was a problem. He noticed that for the most part, students had responded well to the impassioned exaltation of literacy, particularly in writing: producing poems, essays, stories, and book reviews. All of which were deserving of a little extra praise and recognition than a Level 3 or Level 4 grading could bring. But none came. Instead, they would be passed back to the student and soon thereafter become forever lost in the paper-stuffed abyss that is a middle schooler’s backpack. I never had the pleasure of meeting or working with Sam myself, but I imagine his response was, “That’s simply not good enough.”

Sam took to the internet to find a solution, and the “DIMS Authors and Scholars Blog” was born. Run by the City Year ELA coordinators and supported by teachers and staff, the blog is an online platform for highlighting the vibrant community of talented creative writers and artists at Denny. It is referred to as a single blog, but in actuality it is three separate webpages, each dedicated to a grade level. All three are filled with everything from expository essays to pencil sketchings, and a wide variety of poems in all shapes, sizes, and styles. All together, the blog boasts a combined 81 postings and has garnered over 2,000 views in just two years. You can check out the blog posts here:

6th Grade Blog
7th Grade Blog
8th Grade Blog

Admittedly, this might all seem like little more than a shameless plug in an attempt to amass a larger viewing audience, but what I think we can all learn from Sam and the DIMS Blog is no solution to a problem is ever outside the reach of innovation. If it bothers you, address it. If it doesn’t exist, create it. And if it is met with indifference, assess the situation with a clear mind, a level head, and the courage to either stay the course or move on. As for me, I will continue to make sure that students have the opportunity to share their creativity, their struggles, their triumphs, their questions, and the workings of their inner selves with the world. Why? Because writings like this one, submitted to the blog by an 8th grader, should never go unseen:

As a young girl,
I was surrounded by hate,
Parents fighting until divorce,
It left me alone,
My family broken,
Now a teenager,
Everyone’s caring and happy,
I have a step-father,
I’m no longer alone,
My family is a fixed mirror,
Though you can still see the cracks,
It’s because I’m a Denny Dolphin
and I finally belong.

Go Dolphins.

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