Can I Write Hell On This Paper?

Teaching, in my eyes, is about brand new experiences every day. It’s about sparking a fire in the life of a child. It’s about creating an environment that promotes learning and making children feel loved. It’s even about the little moments where the innocence of youth makes you stop to think about life in a brand new way.

Moments like these exist often when challenging twenty-two children on a daily basis to see the world differently. On one particular day, my students were participating in an activity to review word families. Little did I know that this assignment would lead to an ongoing project that turned into the thoughts that you will read about within this blog.

It was a day like most others. My students were working together in cooperative groups and they were very excited about what we were doing that afternoon. Even though it was a typical school day, it lead to a question that still makes me laugh to this day.

We had been working on brand new word families and my students were ready to show everything that they knew. The goal of this activity was to allow the cooperative groups to work together to list as many words as they could think of that belonged to the word family on their poster. Then, the groups rotated and they would add to another groups poster.

As my students walked around the room adding new words to word family posters, one little boy stopped to ask what seemed at the time to be an urgent question. He had come to a crossroad in this project. He was now at the word family poster for -ell and it lead to a question that just begged to be answered. “Mr. Vaughn,” he said with eyes wide and innocent, “Can I write hell on this paper?”

His sincerity when asking this question made this a moment that I will never forget. The question was simple enough, right? I could not help but wonder what life would be like if we all just stopped to ask the questions that no one else was comfortable asking. I mean, how many other kids had stopped at that table, had the same thought, and moved along without even attempting to find the answer to the burning question. How would things be different if we had the gumption of this kid and saw the world through the lens that he sees it through every day?

After speaking to the child about his new word choice and deciding that the word was not the optimal choice for the classroom poster, the student went about his day as if the situation had never happened. But it had happened and I was thankful. The experience sparked an idea to journal the funny things that my students say and relate them to real world teaching and experiences that hopefully everyone reading can enjoy.

Whether you are a teacher, a parent or just a student of life, I hope that you can take some time within these posts to reflect on the children in your life that challenge us to see the world in a brand new way, every single day. My goal for these stories is to give you a new opportunity to laugh, cry or just take a deep breath and remember that life IS good! And on the days that life isn’t so good, I want to give you the opportunity to just stop, reflect and ask yourself… “Can I write hell on this paper?”

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