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  • My students have a hard time putting pen to paper. Fear of spelling isn’t the only issue, but it’s by far the most common. It doesn’t take long in a classroom, or out of one, for children to recognize that adults are generally enamored with correct spelling. It takes much longer to convince them that this skill of memory, or phonics, or both, is unrelated to good writing.

    As a teacher, of course I want my students to learn how to spell. But more, much more, I want them to write. And write. And write. And so I answer the inevitable spelling questions the same way, every time:

    “Sound it out and we’ll fix it later. Just keep writing.”

    They keep asking though.

    It’s deeply ingrained, this idea that success is to be valued the most when it can be easily measured.

    Eleven years ago, on that Tuesday morning in September, after being unexpectedly called out of my classroom and informed of incomprehensible events happening a few miles away, I returned to the kids confused, shaken and entirely unsure of how to proceed. The tremendous responsibility of caring for my students in a situation which had no precedent was overwhelming. I have never felt so unprepared.

    “How do you spell Pikachu?”

    The normalcy was instantly reassuring. It summoned up that part of me. The part of me that I knew the best, that I was the proudest of, and that had, in some way, saved the rest of me on that very first day I had walked into a classroom years before.

    “Wait,” he smiled. “I know, I know. We’ll figure it out later. Just keep writing.”
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