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Celebrating Brilliance and other thoughts on reading, writing, and success in ELA

Updated: May 3, 2023

This morning as I walked into school, a student excitedly greeted me

"Mr. Gilson, look at my comic; it's finished!"

I was blown away just by the cover, and then I started to take a look inside.

For context, in class currently, we are working on more formal writing. We are working on narratives, essays, and a business email format kids must learn for a ridiculous test. This particular student has some academic challenges, and those tasks prove to be frustrating. As we started working through those tasks, I asked him if he would like to write me a comic book; he loves drawing and comics. He excitedly took on the assignment. I had no idea at that moment that it would light a little creative fire.

I celebrated this moment for him and excitedly showed other students and teachers the magic he had created. His passion and talent for drawing, combined with an understanding of how comics and graphic novels work helped him to craft this beautiful composition.

Sometimes in education, we have voices (rarely educators and never kids) that try to discount comics and graphic novels as not "really reading." Some go so far as to say letting kids choose those texts is limiting. I am curious about what limitations this choice has placed on this student. He crafted a wonderful story, played around with multiple modes of communication, identified a main idea he wanted to portray, AND followed a prompt that his peers also had been assigned to create a story from for their standardized exam. He could tell a far more complex tale by combining his use of words with his wonderfully joyful images.

I am a firm believer in Dr. Gholdy Muhammad's words

Create Space for Genius and Genius will Emerge

Today a student showed me how he could take what he loves to read, combine it with a way to write that he understands and can find success in, and added his talent to create a brilliant composition.

I wish more voices in education trusted kids to tell us how best they can show what they are learning. I wish for a system that is flexible in accepting learning in whatever way it comes. Until that day arrives room 157 will remain a space for brilliance to be nurtured and excellence to grow. Some days are so good they make you forget the bad. Today was that kind of day.

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