Writing Camp, Summer 2014

My favorite professor in college used to tell a story. As a young man, he’d been in a jazz band and then the army. He’d traveled solo around the world, dreamed of being a pilot, gone to flight school. After receiving his pilot’s license, however, he couldn’t find work. Times were desperate; money, scarce. One day, in a moment of frustration, he cried out, “Lord, please . . . What do you want me to do?!”

Five minutes later, he heard a knock on the door. A classmate needed help with an English assignment: Could he . . . ?

Over the next few weeks and months, *Dr. I’s reputation as an English tutor grew. People seemed to be coming out of the woodwork for his help . . . Suddenly, the answer was clear: Dr. I went on to get his masters and, later, doctorate in English and has been teaching and inspiring lives ever since.

I can relate to Dr. I.

Hong Kong

In my classroom in Hong Kong

After college, I thought I wanted to go into journalism. I loved to write, and journalism was a way to write, right? I got a job at a publishing company, and I enjoyed it — sort of.  Deadlines got old quickly. I couldn’t write about things I cared about. My perfectionism killed me. After a year and a half, I quit and moved home to California — and couldn’t find work. I ended up working as an ophthalmology assistant for a year and cried every day on my way to work. I hated it. But it was exactly this set-up that led me to teaching in Taiwan and Hong Kong for three years. And it was exactly that set-up that led me to where I am now — working with kids and loving every minute of it.

You see . . . If people are people, kids are even more so. I don’t care what their nationality, or where they were born, or what kind of food they like, kids are kids. Kids are eager, enthusiastic, curious, open. They’re excitable and impressionable. Kids love to love and be loved. They don’t understand hatred and meanness and bigotry: These are things we teach them.

Over the past two weeks, I had the privilege of teaching a writing camp in the mornings before my regular afternoon classes at an after-school learning center in San Ramon. I only had seven students, but it was an absolute blast to share what I love with those seven eager faces. We wrote stories, created skits, did How-To presentations, and a whole lot more. And even better? The kids loved it. Here is some of what they said about the class:

Wow… I must say, my expectation was far exceeded at writing camp this year . . . I feel like Ms. Jessica taught us so many things and she did it incredibly well. I was able to have fun and learn plenty all at the same time. Her feedback was incredibly honest and I was excited to improve from it. I’ve grown to love writing in only two weeks. Through creativity and imagination, I learned how fun writing can be.

— J, 9th grade

I really liked sharing our stories. At first I didn’t like the idea of reading what I’d written to others, but it got me out of my comfort zone. I’m really proud of myself for actually reading out loud to others.

— D, 9th grade

Writing camp was really fun. Miss Jess was really nice. My favorite part was doing the skit! I learned more about dialogue because I didn’t know much about it before.

— A, 5th grade

What I liked about the summer camp was seeing and making new friends, and of course, the writing. Miss Jessica was really doing her best to help us enjoy writing. I mean, who would’ve known? Writing is fun! . . . Making new friends and meeting friends again — that is fate.

— M, 5th grade

I loved acting and writing in our jornals! I learned what is a metafor and simile. I also liked writing storys and planing the show thingy.

— K, 2nd grade

I liked everything about English. I liked the journal a lot, but the part I liked best was the “How To.” It was fun learning how to do certain things. This is probably the best summer camp I’ve had. If I could, I would redo the last two weeks (including this one)!!

— G, 5th grade

Miss Jessica, writing teacher. Fate?


*Name changed for privacy


29 thoughts

  1. Jessica I am so proud of you. Sounds like the kids had a ball while they were learning. Now that, my dear, is a teacher.Have I ever told you that my mother was a teacher and I avoided even thinking of being one? When I was almost eighty I learned that I could teach and it has led to the writing of two books. God’s ways are mysterious. Keep up the good work and keep your eyes open and your ears tuned to the voice of God. He won’t let you down.

    • Marie!!!! Yours was my first comment and the one to which I am responding last! Not on purpose — I just put it off because I wanted to give it a meaningful response, as it meant so much to me, and because I’ve been so incredibly busy.

      No, you hadn’t told me that your mother was a teacher. I *never* thought I wanted to be a teacher in school. I wanted to write, not just teach others to write. I say “just” because, at the time, I really couldn’t see the value in it. I guess I didn’t want my only legacy (someday) to have been teaching others to do what I myself should have been doing. I guess I didn’t realize I could do both…

      Yes, you are right that God’s ways are mysterious. He has led me in directions I never would have imagined. And I am loving all of it. (Well, most of the time.) I am especially glad he led me to you. :)

      Hope you are having a lovely weekend!

    • Thanks, Dan. It’s just that life is full of surprises and twists and turns. I never thought I’d want to work with kids, but here I am, and I love it!!

  2. This is awesome beyond words Jess. Your blog writing is already inspiring, but it’s all the more worthwhile when you pass on the love for writing (or whatever your passion) through teaching. Beautiful!

    • Thank you so much, Sophia. I have missed my blog and blogging friends so much since my schedule has gotten so crazy. Sometimes I have been tempted to give up, but it is comments like yours that keep me pushing forward on “Shift”!!

  3. It is so nice to hear you doing something that makes you happy, Jess. Sounds like the kids around you think so too, and you’re doing a great job at it. Fate? Maybe it is fate. Or maybe this is another journey on the road of life to a bigger destiny :)

    Kids…are always kids. They know how to enjoy and live in the moment and the simplest things makes them happy. I guess it’s rubbing off on you :D

    • Sorry for taking so long to respond! There is never time with my new job! It’s definitely not a computer job where I can take breaks and check facebook or my blog.

      I just think that it’s funny that I’m in teaching when I never thought I wanted to be a teacher, and the way I got this job is even more interesting. I will have to write a post about it.

      Thank you for your continues friendship, Mabel. When I make it to Melbourne someday, we will get together! :)

  4. Wow. Such a wonderful post, Jess. It is so exciting, so liberating to find your calling. It is such a blessing. I am so happy for you.

    • Thank you, Ted! It sounds like you must have experienced something similar? Yes, it is exciting. And the most exciting part? Working with kids is something I can do anywhere in the world! ;)

  5. Wow. And you don’t need to be in a newspaper to be a journalist. Just keep telling stories and teaching others how to tell them. :)

    • Thank you, thank you, Riz. You are so sweet! Sorry it took me so long to respond. I don’t even sit down at my computer except for on the weekends these days… Hope you’ve been well!

  6. Jess,

    Fate has a way of bringing us to our proper place if we quiet ourselves and let it work for us. People fight to make their own way and end up stomping all over their true calling without even knowing. This is my belief anyway. I am so happy you eventually were led to the situation you are in. To be doing what you LOVE to do on a daily basis and be helping to shape and mold young minds in the process is a beautiful thing.

    I must say how impressed I am with the comments from your students/campers. Some very bright kids. The first comment in particular was quite impressive. To hear a child say these words, “Her feedback was incredibly honest and I was excited to improve from it.” was something amazing to me. I am not sure the age of your students but to be young and so open to constructive guidance (I hate the term constructive criticism when referring to kids) is just amazing. If this is truly how this child feels, than he/she has a bright literary future if that is what he/she chooses. You must be one hell of a teacher. Just from the way you speak about it in your writing makes me positive that you genuinely care about what you do and the impression you leave on these kids. I come from a family FULL of teachers and it is so evident that to aspire to be one is proof of the care factor. Be well and KEEP INSPIRING.
    Something I say to all, but in your case it takes on a whole new life of it’s own.

    Sorry for the long comment…..lol.


    • Never apologize for a long comment, John. It means a lot to me! Thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement. I don’t know about being a hell of a teacher but I know that I *am* passionate about it. And kids can see that. We’ve all experienced the difference between a teacher who is passionate about what they do and those who make their students feel as if they’d rather be anywhere else. The contrast is huge.

      The students whose comment you mentioned was a special kid. He’s a freshman in high school and my boss’s son. He is Asian, and, not to be stereotypical, but, he has been programmed to value his education very highly. My students were anywhere from ages 14 to 7, so it was a tough range to teach, but they were all great and did well.

      I am hoping to put out another post this weekend. Hell, maybe even two. I never even open my laptop during the week anymore. It’s kind of sad, but I’ve just been too busy. It’s not like I have a job where I can blog during breaks. There *is* no break when you’re working with kids!

      Hope you’re having a great weekend and getting some riding in!!

      • Here is to hoping that you never lose the passion and commitment to the kids. Teachers like you are invaluable and I have a tremendous respect for the amount of work it takes to make a difference with todays kids.

        I hope you are having a great weekend too. I just got back from a rather hilly ride full of rollers that I was able to ride pretty aggressively. While I still have a LONG way to go to optimal fitness and god form, I am making progress. I will be in Tahoe the last week of July and hope to take decent fitness with me. Every year it seems the Tour De France and my Annual Tahoe trip provide me with a good deal of what I like to call “Motivational Momentum”. Anyway, I hope you are finding time to ride as well. Be well Jess and I close comments with this a lot, but being you’re a teacher it has extra special and more direct meaning. Keep Inspiring


      • Just caught a hilarious typo. Of course I meant GOOD form and not GOD form as it reads. LOL. I aspire to many things but that is a bit out of my reach. HAHA, Have a good one Jess.

  7. Love it! I’m so happy to hear that you’ve found a way to live your passion and—equally as important—share it with others. Seeing you through the frustration of not having a job you loved and now watching you come out of it with something you never knew you would love makes this friend very, very happy for you. It looks like the timing of everything worked out in the end. :)

    • Thanks, girl! Yes, it has been an adventure with an unexpected outcome, that’s for sure. And who knows what will come next. I can only take it one day at a time.

      Love ya!

  8. You look so happy teaching, and your joy is contagious. What a wonderful phenomenon! So happy for you and your students and your happiness in teaching!

  9. Jess, I think once we hit adulthood, the greatest gift we can give is inspiring others and especially children. If you can inspire a child, you can impact their life so positively and it is an impact they can build off of & treasure when the time comes. This also allows us to learn and grow as adults. It seems you have found a great niche where you give as well as receive. Beautiful post.

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