We Read and We Write – Wherever We Are.

March 17

Today as we continued to adjust to the “new normal” of COVID-19 and its impact on or lives I was in my classroom waiting for students to come and pick up their left-behind things.

Last night I sent out a message to my families:

Ok Parents,

So I don’t know exactly what this new journey we are all on is going to look like yet and more will get figured out in the days to come, but I did want to write a quick note. One thing that I have told the kids all year (and for some of your kids for 3 years now) is that in my class “we read and we write” – it is that simple. I don’t intend on that changing.

I do know however that not everyone has access to books at home and with the Library closing as well over this time, I wanted to extend an opportunity for students to borrow from my classroom library if needed.

Tomorrow when you are scheduled to come to pick up student supplies from lockers I have many of their Notebooks that I would like them to grab. If they might need a book or two (that I will hope to get back in September or earlier, fingers crossed) they will be able to borrow and I will write it down so I can get them back when we return.

If you have any questions please let me know, if anyone in the family is unwell, please don’t come. We can figure out alternative arrangements to get their notebooks to them.

Let’s all make sure we are washing our hands and keeping our social distance. 


Today as I sat waiting, I wondered how many students would actually come in before this remote teaching experiment begins. We had the day set up in chunks to keep the numbers down as we are try to abide by the suggested gathering size, and I built a desk “wall” to establish my own Social Distancing comfort zone. What a world.

I received an email from a student that simply read, “Can I get some books?” My response was an equally simple, “Yup.”

She arrived and left with some great ones, The Next Great Paulie Fink, Internment, The Serpent King ,and Let Me Hear a Rhyme. I have read two of them and asked her to let me know how the other two were. As she left she gave me a note. I opened it:

After I read it, my first thought was that I would be demanding to teach Grade 10 Language Arts. My next thought was how much this small act of kindness meant to me. This is a stressful time for everyone. Kids and adults alike are scared, worried, nervous, questioning, unsure of what is going to come next.

As teachers we have the added concern right now of trying to do what is best for our kids in this time of uncertainty. What will “instruction” look like? How does one assess work that we do not see our students complete and yet is “turned in”? More important – when do we get to laugh together? When do we get to joyously share our books or our writing?

I am not sure what that is going to look like, but I do plan on figuring it out. I want my students to feel assured. I want them to feel seen, to know that I get it – I am worried too, but we will do everything we can to keep things as normal as we can. We will continue to read and write.

I begin by taking a minute and write a letter to my students in the vein of the letter I received.

Dear Students of Room 157:

This has been a year. We started out strong and kept pushing until the day we were told we needed to take a break. I understand the fear, the worry, the uncertainty, and I want you to know I see you and I am here for you, to help you with your work, to discuss great books and to share in a joy of literacy.

I also want you to know that I will miss the laughter. I will miss the moments where we just talk about nonsense and try to figure out how it fits into a lesson. I will miss your excited discussions around sports, or books, or whatever other topic that has whipped you into a frenzy. I will miss the bravado that the boys brought in after big wins on the court and the grace that the girls always gave them even with a roll of their eyes. I will miss talking books in person, that excited whisper that so often takes me off task (I know you use this to your advantage, but I have also used it to mine). I will miss you all.

But here is the thing, we are all going to get through this. There will be moments when things get a lot worse, and then things will get better. We are going to have to dig deep to keep the learning going in these uncharted waters, but I believe more than anything that you can do it. You are a special group, my students of Room 157. We have overcome things together already and we will overcome this.

My favourite book is Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book – that Jungle Book-like tale of self discovery set in the graveyard, and Nobody Owens raised by ghosts, and a Vampire named Silas. I love the work of Neil Gaiman, and I feel this quote sums things up perfectly.

This point in time might not be a fairy tale, but I do know that you are all capable of overcoming this dragon.


Teachers, students and parents — these next few weeks and months as we try and make sense of the current COVID-19 influenced world of education, please give yourselves some grace,. Take some deep breaths, practice some yoga (in isolation), read plenty of great books. And write. Write every day.

For me, in the end, a simple truth remains. In room 157 we read and we write. On we go.

Brent Gilson blogs for MiddleWeb and for his personal blog Things Mr. G Says. Follow his posts as he battles dragons and searches for grace, here.

Brent Gilson

Brent Gilson (@mrbgilson) is entering his 10th year of teaching. He began his career in a third grade classroom and has since spent time in grades 4,6,7 and 8. Brent currently teaches at the middle level in a small community in southern Alberta, Canada. He enjoys talking books with his students and writing for his blog Things Mr. G Says and occasionally recording a podcast.

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