I Can’t Be A Writer With I’m Done With School, Can I?

Posted in Science And Education at 1:12 pm by Aaron Tate, M.A.

This week, the PreK-8 in which I teach is celebrating spirit week.  As part of the festivities, students come to school dressed in different themes, ranging from Color Day to Moustache Day to Heritage Day.  Today is Career Day, and students have arrived representing virtually every possible career under the sun.  From doctors and nurses, to professional athletes, to teachers, and even to fast food mascots, it appears that nothing has been left out.

Well, almost nothing.

As I’ve observed students interacting with one another today, I’ve heard “What are you dressed up as?” and “What do you want to be?” asked over and over.  And, over and over, I’ve heard with excitement the standard “I’m gonna be a (fill in the blank)!” in response.  As an educator and a self-proclaimed life-long learner, I am encouraged by the discussions that today’s theme are generating.  After all, thinking about one’s future is a good thing, right?

Unfortunately, today’s activities also left me feeling somewhat unsure as well.  This is because, only once so far, have I heard the following conversation take place, and my guess is that it’ll be the only time:

Student A: “Hey, what’re you dressed up as?”

Student B, dressed up in normal clothing: “I’m a writer. Duh!”

This is interesting to me, and got me to thinking: career or not, why is it that more students don’t consider writing long-term beyond their school years?  Is it because it’s harder to picture “being” an author than it is to picture being a mechanic, a politician, or a football player?  Is it because creative writing tends to take a back seat to the dreaded 5-paragraph essay in schools today, thus leading to burnout and disinterest where writing is concerned?  Is it because putting one’s thoughts and stories out there for everybody to read is scary enough to dissuade even the most hardened extrovert from ever considering pursuing such a goal/career?  Or is it because writing simply never takes root in a child’s life, given that there are so many other distractions that assume priority from day to day?

Regardless of the reasons, today was eye-opening for me.

As someone that has always, and will always, embed non-fiction literacy strategies into the science classes that I teach, I’ve always thought I’ve been doing my part to get kids reading and writing.  However, because of the “a-ha” moment I experienced today, I’m now left to wonder if I need to do more.  In addition to emphasizing non-fiction literacy strategies, should I also be emphasizing creative writing just as heavily?  Also, as someone that is an almost-yet-to-be-published-author-that-didn’t-even-start-creatively-writing-until-the-age-of-29-himself, do I have an obligation to push creative writing in the hopes that it might spark long-term interest in one or more of my students at an earlier age?

Well, it certainly couldn’t hurt, that’s for sure.  And it’s not like I wouldn’t be able to effectively incorporate creative writing into my classes.  It’d be real easy, for instance, to have students write a story from an atom’s point of view, or to describe the final hours of the dinosaurs in vivid detail.  Therefore, as I continue reflecting on this, and as I begin planning for the upcoming school year this summer, I’m certain that I’ll make it a point to include more creative writing activities than I ever have before.  And who knows?  Maybe doing so will cause me to hear “I’m gonna be a writer!” more than once during the next career day.

“The only reason for being a professional writer is that you can’t help it.” ~ Leo Rosten


Celebrating The World’s Nerds (Or, it’s Okay to be Smart!)

Posted in Science And Education at 9:11 am by Aaron Tate, M.A.

Science nerds rule.

At least, that’s what the main characters of my debut young-adult adventure series, Cold Secrets, appear to believe.  And, to be honest, I have to agree with them.  I mean, doesn’t it always seem to be the “nerd” that everybody teased in school that becomes fabulously wealthy years down the road?  Or, how about the “nerd” in your biology class that became a Biochemist, went on to work for the CDC, and discovered the next great treatment for a deadly disease?  And don’t forget about the “nerd” in S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) class that grew up to be the first person in your town to enter Earth’s orbit as an elite astronaut.  If you ask me, they’re all pretty cool for so-called nerds.

“If you like nerds, raise your hand. If you don’t, raise your standards.”

~Author Violet Haberdasher

I have taught middle school science for over eight years.  If you walk into my classroom, you will notice that I am a nerd, loud and proud.  From the doormat that says “I SEE NERDS” to the posters adorning my classroom to the lab coat that I wear from time to time, it’s readily apparent that I proudly embrace my nerdiness for all to see.  And when students actually have the gall to call me a nerd (how could they?), I smile, nod my head, and thank them.  Because, believe it or not, I think it’s actually pretty cool to be a role model for all the future nerds of the world.

“Being a nerd really pays off sometimes.”

~ Ken Jennings, Record-holding contestant on Jeopardy!

In the Cold Secrets books, best friends Maddy Rutherford and identical twins Corbyn and Aaden Franklin share the spotlight as the series’ main characters.  Throughout their adventures, they proudly refer to themselves as Team SoNaR.  This team name is derived from the fact that the three of them believe that science nerds rule.  Written as an acronym, this would look like S.N.R., which, when read aloud, sounds like sonar. Thus, team SoNaR was born, and the rest is nerd history.  And, for anybody that reads the series, I bet you’ll agree that team SoNaR makes science nerds seem pretty dang cool (and fun to read about).

“So nerds rule.”

~ Author Christopher Moore

So, what is it exactly that I’m trying to say?  Well, it’s simple really: nerds are cool.  We should embrace them, applaud them for their accomplishments, befriend them, believe in them, and watch them as they change the world.  And, above all, we needn’t waste our time and energy making fun of, or bullying, them.  Because, as Bill Gates once famously said, “Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.”