Search the Site
It all started in Portable 21...
I started writing short stories for reluctant, struggling readers while teaching at Sunset High School in Dallas, TX, in Portable 21. My students were...well...in a state of rebellion. They wouldn’t complete the work I'd left with my substitute. (Has anyone else ever had that problem?)
One fine day, I came up with a different kind of lesson plan in anticipation of my next absence (I'd been volun-told to be on a committee that met six times during the school year during the school day). Anyway, I wrote a high-interest story about a teenage mother who ran away from home and left the baby with her parents. I infused my students’ names, familiar settings, and, of course, plenty of drama. In accordance with student data and best practices for high school reading comprehension, the text was at most of the students’ independent reading levels, and was followed by open-ended comprehension questions.
When I got back to school the day following my absence, the substitute left a note saying that the students were “great.” My first thought was "they must have all skipped." Then I felt the folder that contained the students’ work; it was pretty thick. My second thought was they must have all copied from each other. But when I began to read their answers, I realized they had all done their own work. No two answers were exactly the same. I immediately repented for my ill thoughts and decided that it must have been a one-time quirky thing.
Imagine my surprise (and dismay) when my students asked, “Miss, when are you gonna be absent again so we can read another one of your stories?” As it turned out, I missed several days that year and wrote many stories for my students. I had to make extra copies, though, because the stories kept growing feet and walking out of the room with the kids!
Before long, teachers and students all over the campus were asking about these short stories. Neighboring teachers borrowed copies for their kids to read. The on-campus suspension teacher began assigning the stories to kids who wouldn't read anything else. I knew, then, that she was onto something.
My students' encouragement spurred a successful writing career for me. I am now a national bestselling faith-based novelist, but my love of writing and passion for reaching at-risk youth has not waned. Since founding Right Track Academic Support Services, in 2000, I have partnered with teachers, juvenile justice centers, literacy coaches, administrators and mentors in an effort to help every student experience the joy of reading -- and maybe learn valuable life-lessons along the way.
Right Track Academic Support Services
P.O. Box 1592
Cedar Hill, TX 75106