One morning last week, I greeted the children and was happy to see them, but I was also preoccupied by all that comes with end of a marking period. I didn’t even realize that I’d forgotten to put the morning assignment on the board. The room was very quiet. I looked up and was amazed. Children had pulled out writing folders. Black ink was moving across smooth yellow legal pads. They were working on drafts started the day before in Writing Workshop. Through writing, they were living a moment, crossing it out, and living it again. They were revising. I’ve been waiting for this. They were not just going through the motions. They were working to get it right.
Today is Ground Hog’s Day and it is also my husband’s birthday. Every year, at his request, we watch Ground Hog’s Day with Bill Murray. Bill Murray plays Phil Connors–a weatherman who is simply going through the motions. He is cynical about his life and bored by the people around him. He hates his job and he hates Ground Hog’s Day and he hates the annual assignment of covering the official ground hog, Punxsutawney Phil. Everything is so… predictable. Until one February 2, when it isn’t. He wakes up and is surprised by a blizzard and he is doomed to live that one day over and over again until he finds he can he be surprised by life, too.
As he finds meaning in the day that he is living again and again, something happens to the way this weatherman tells the story of Ground Hog’s Day. Poetry works its way into his narrative. As the weatherman finds meaning in the world around him he finds he has something to say — a story to tell. And that he can tell it beautifully.
Writing can be our own “Ground Hog’s Day.” Sometimes, through writing, we live a day or a moment again and again–until we get it right. Bill Murray’s weatherman doesn’t see the subtle beauty and joy in the world around him, until he is forced to look again. And again.
As my third graders write, they are looking. When they revise, they are looking again. Meaning emerges as young writers look, and language gets richer as they see — really see. I saw this last week in Room 204.
Tonight I will watch Ground Hog’s Day again. I used to complain about this. I would complain that watching it once was like watching it again and again. I don’t complain anymore. Bill Murray, as a disillusioned weatherman, has taught me a thing or two. I get it. We have a birthday to celebrate…and so much more.