He told me that this year he wanted a friend. Just one.
That other kids didn’t like him.
That they made fun of him. That they were mean. That they went out of their way to make him feel less than.
That perhaps he had no reason to be alive because no one seemed to care whether he lived anyway.
I told him we did.
He told me that he wanted to be a writer. That he had all of these stories to share. To create. But that no one would care, no one would read them anyway.
So we told him to write. Write on your blog whatever you want. Share your story and I will amplify it for you. And so he did. He wrote about a prince and his mission. Asked me to please send it out. “Will anyone like it?”
So I did and they did. Teachers and students left comments urging him to write more. To not leave them waiting for the next installment. I approved every comment.
He came to me the very next day, “Did you see it, Mrs. Ripp? They really like me…I must write more.”
And for that moment he saw himself as a writer. As someone worth knowing. Not the child that others found strange, or angry, or unfit to be a friend to. A writer with words that mattered.
And so he wrote. And he believed that he, too, mattered.
She came to us wearing cat ears. Then a tail. A big jester’s hat.
Her laugh was loud but you didn’t it hear it much. After all, no one else seemed to get the jokes.
She would go on and on about games she played online. Filling our ears with Minecraft terms that I had no idea about. I saw the eye rolls from other kids. The ones who chose not to be at her table. The ones that whispered.
And we spoke about kindness as if the kids hadn’t heard it all before.
She asked if she could write whatever she wanted and we told her of course.
And so she wrote about Minecraft. The place where she felt like others got her. The place where she felt that she had value. Where others saw her as indispensable and not just as that weird girl.
And so she wrote, Minecraft fanfiction, I had trouble following it and yet her passion, her creativity marked her words. And so I shared, the least I could do, and the very next day she had 85 comments from kids around the world telling her to write more. To tell them more. Asking her to be their friend.
She would come up to me to tell me about her latest installment. About her newfound fans. She knew that at our school perhaps many wouldn’t see past the hat, the tail, the laugh, but online, she was something. I told her she was something to us as well.
At the end of the year, she wrote a speech detailing how friends found online were true friends. How sometimes you needed the online world to make you feel found. That she had found her community in the games she played, in the worlds she created. That she would have never felt as accepted, as valued, as she did online.
That technology meant that she was more than what those face-to-face saw her as.
We bring in technology thinking it will add the next level skills to our classrooms. That technology will help our teaching come alive, our curriculum have a deeper meaning. That it may “hook” the kids as if they are fish, keep them engaged, get them ready for the future.
And yes, those are valid reasons.
But the true power in technology is not just the readiness. The skills. The playing around with tools to create something impossible.
It is the power to be seen.
To not be alone.
To feel that in the world, someone values you. That someone out there gets you.
Our oldest daughter cemented her best friendship through Minecraft. They play together, side by side, and it drew them tighter together as Thea faced the bullies at her school.
When I think of technology, I don’t just see it as a tool. I see it as a way for kids to be seen. For kids to be found. For kids to not be alone. And for adults too.
Someone out there values us. Someone out there, who wonders whether they have worth, is waiting for all of us. Technology means we don’t have to be alone anymore.
If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child, out August 2017. This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block. If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.