Slice of Life: The Man Who Wrote The Man Who Walked

Slice of Life(This is part of the Slice of Life project at Two Writing Teachers)

So, yesterday was one of those days so crammed with activity that I could probably write four or five slices out of it, but I’ll concentrate on just this one: the renowned writer/illustrator Mordecai Gerstein came to our school to talk with my students (and others) for about an hour. Do you know him? He wrote such picture books as The Awful Alphabet, The Mountains of TibetWhat Charlie Heard, and, one of my all-time favorites, The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, about Philippe Petite’s acrobatic dance on a wire between the now-destroyed Twin Towers of NYC. (I once did a podcast review of this book. Take a listen).

I had to pop in and out of the session (we did get our tech problem fixed for Progress Reports and I needed to check them out and print them out during this time), but he had some wonderful things to say about writing, and drawing, and making books full of imagination.

“A picture book is like a little movie theater you hold in your hand,” Gerstein said, adding that this is a low-tech way to share stories with your friends. Pass them a book and watch their eyes light up.

Earlier, as he crumpled up a large sheet of paper on purpose, he turned to the kids and urged them to take risks, make mistakes and keep trying. He was referring to drawing, but really, this is a lesson for life. I kept an eye on these 80 sixth graders, and they were pretty rapt with attention, particularly as his pen moved across the paper.

“I’ve messed up a lot of paper in my life and I hope to mess up even more,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.”

I am thankful to our art teacher and our librarian for finding ways to bring folks like Mordecai Gerstein to our school and hope his talk sparks something special in some of the kids in the audience.

But that wasn’t all that was special about the day. After meeting with Mordecai, we then boarded a bus that took us up to the high school, where the students there performed a “preview” of their incredible production of the Wizard of Oz. They were fantastic and it was so neat to see so many former students on the stage. And for my students, it was something that stirred excitement in a lot of them who are interested in drama.

Peace (in the pictures),

  1. If I could have all the money I need to help me teach, some of the first things I would buy are visiting authors/illustators. Each time I have experienced one working with my class I have been motivated to do and try more and my kids have as well. I enjoyed reading your piece and felt like I was there listening to him myself.

  2. What a thrill for you and your kids. I can’t relate to the picture books, but I do remember when I directed a group of seniors presenting the Wizard of Oz. I got to drive the small school bus even though it was freaky to put it in reverse. We toured all the elementary and middle schools in our district. What a blast!
    Glad that the grading issues didn’t ruin your good times with your kids.

  3. What a rich experience in the arts for your students! I once had a chance to hear Patricia Pollaco speak, and I’ll never forget the rapt look of wonder on the faces of the kids present – your students are lucky!

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