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Words Weigh: Project 180, Day 87

Seems I wasn’t the only one with a Final Act  in mind yesterday. It was on Juliane’s (pronounced Julie–en) mind, too. It seems a lot was on his mind. It seems a lot has been on his mind. Yesterday, he shared some of that “lot” with us, and I’m not sure we who were there will ever not carry his words with us.

He’s a quiet kid. He’s a studious kid. He’s a kind kid. He’s a funny kid. He’s a bright kid. The list goes on.

And he is not a big kid. His stature is small–quite. That mixed with his quiet demeanor makes at him at times blend into the background and go unnoticed. But there are times when he peaks out above his glasses and makes known his presence by the brilliance of his words, and he is small no more. Yesterday, was one of those days. Yesterday, Juliane was too big for the background. Yesterday, Juliane was a giant.

When I posted his promotional poster on the front board, reading quietly his title and “teaser,” I suspected he may have something special in store, for I had felt the weight of his words before. And as I looked at the boy he had drawn on his poster I was struck by the likeness it bore to the young man I had gotten to know over the past weeks. Secured with tape, it faded into the background of the more conspicuous, colorful posters of his peers. And the quiet boy in the poster, like the quiet boy in the room settled into his quiet place.

“Sy, can I go last?”

Not thinking much of his request at the time, I asked the rest of the writers in the room if they were okay with it. They were. I consented. Juliane nodded. And we moved on, moving through many fantastic pieces of writing. And though all were great in their own right, none were quite as powerful, quite as stunning as Juliane’s. His turn at last, he took a deep breath, exhaled deliberately, and the small quiet boy became a giant. He grabbed us. And he did not let go.


Juliane is writing a journal. He shared entry fifteen with us yesterday. It is an entry full of light and darkness. It is at once disturbing and inspiring. It is a testament to the wisdom, the fear, the hope of youth. It is the voice of a little boy in a big world, lost and found, and yesterday that little voice reminded us all of our humanity, of our responsibility to each other. We sat in stunned silence, many near tears as Juliane transformed once more from giant to quiet, little boy in his quiet place. But he will no longer be able to hide, to fade into the background. He found the stage. He shared his voice. And we will never be able to unhear his words.

Of course, at this point, as the English teacher, I feel compelled to acknowledge the writing. No, there are no paragraphs. Yes, there are errors. Yes, there are some awkward constructions. And no, not all his transitions were smooth. And yes, he should have proofread more carefully. And if I were to place it on the scoring scale, the score would reflect these concerns, but that score would fail to weigh the impact of his words, the power of his voice. The point of the Passion Paper is not the writing. As I have said in earlier posts, I did not design this opportunity to judge the writing. I designed it to elevate the young writers in the room. And though I had not conceived of the Passion Paper when I wrote my kids the letter below in August, I think it was on my mind.

I hope you discover the unique power of your voice. Language is power, a power available to all. It is not reserved for a select few. You have language, which means you have power. I will help you find your way, but it begins with your believing that you have power. I so hope you make this important discovery this year.

I will not set Juliane’s writing on a scale. I do not have to. I cannot deny the weight his words already carry. I cannot deny the unique power of his voice. He has found it. He has shared it. And I, and his peers–and now, maybe even you–are better for it. So proud of this young man, this giant.

Today, we will finish publishing our Passion Papers. So glad I have a front row seat to the awesome show it’s been. Excited to find more giants today.

Third Period Writers
Fifth Period Writers. Juliane is bottom, left.

Today’s Trail

Along today’s trail we will…

…begin with Smiles and Frowns.

…publish Passion Papers.

…end with a Sappy Sy Rhyme.

Happy Thursday, all. No school tomorrow. Mid-winter break day, so I won’t post.

Do. Reflect. Do Better.



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