Support Power of the Pen’s young writers on Giving Tuesday, December 1, 2020, at powerofthepen.org/Donate or GoFundMe. Share the GoFundMe page with friends and family!
Springfield Middle School Coach Amy Merrill-Wyatt, author of Ernestine, Catastrophe Queen, describes what mentoring young writers:
Watching my students grow over the course of each tournament year is one of the biggest rewards of coaching Power of the Pen.
Students always begin each year tentatively - you can practically see the doubts hovering over their heads. "Am I a good writer?" "What if I'm not a good writer?" "What if I can't ever learn to be a good writer?" "Should I just give up now?"
They turn their notebooks in shyly, afraid to meet my eye as they hand their stories to me. As they do, I know they might as well be handing me their self-confidence because no artist can ever truly, completely untangle themselves from the art they create. And so, I take those notebooks knowing that I have a sacred responsibility to those students; to help them find what they're doing well and give them a plan for how to get even better.
Coaches Are Students’ Lights in the Darkness
As coaches, we are students' lights in the darkness. It's our duty to guide them towards the best writing they are capable of doing. Encouraging them to take that next step by helping them to see how far they've already come. We can neither be too hard on our writers nor fill them with false praise.
"You've identified a thrilling idea for a story, and I wanted to find out what happened next!" is a frequent comment of mine early on in the year, followed up by, "In your next story, I'd love to see more details and descriptive language so I can feel like I'm really in the story." Reading story after story, watching my writers do just that, I glow with pride as I see them grow, becoming stronger, more confident writers with each prompt.
Power of the Pen Nurtures Empathy
Not all Power of the Pen writers will go on to write professionally someday, but all learn how to wield the power of words. How to engage in an experience and express it to someone else. To help the reader experience what it's like to be someone else, if only for a little while. In this way, Power of the Pen helps to create more empathetic adults, people who know how to reach out to another person and say, "I can imagine what you're going through."
All of those doubts my students have early on are ultimately about wondering if they are 'good enough' in every way. Power of the Pen helps young writers understand, "Yes, I am - and you are too. And together, we will continue to grow and get stronger."