Dear Neil Gaiman,
Last year I sat on the carpet with a fresh group of fourth graders and with marker and paper in hand, we began the tradition of brainstorming what our class name would be. “Miss G’s Giraffe’s” and “Miss G’s Gerbils” made the list, but nothing seemed worthy of making the cut. Alliteration is fine and all, but this was to be our identity for the year and we needed something that felt right. And then one student raised her hand and said, “How about the Phoenixes. I mean, we aren’t always perfect and we definitely mess up and have bad days, but just like a phoenix, we always get to start over.” Throughout the year, I watched as the Phoenix allowed us to forge incredible bonds and become so much more than the design on our shirt. We took risks, faced fears, looked out for each other, celebrated successes and offered encouragement and helping hands. We had each other’s backs because we were all in this together. We were Phoenixes.
We are still phoenixes. Another group has joined our classroom nest and we are once again sitting on the carpet with marker and paper in hand. Only this time, it is to come up with a Phoenix slogan and decide on important details like color scheme and font. One student lamented today, “I wish we could get it in Neil Gaiman’s handwriting. That would be better than any font” And suddenly the room was filled with the cacophonous agreement of 19 ten year olds all shouting (because 10 year olds only shout) “YES!! That would be the best!”
These kids are that cool. They are literary nerds and book worms. They totally get why I have a full size TARDIS door in my classroom and think I should frame the tweet you sent me last week and hang it on the wall. These are kids who come from all kinds of diverse backgrounds and academic levels, and who see the world in so many different and magical ways. They will try every plea and bribe hoping I will read “Just one more chapter! PLEEEEASE!!” of whatever story I am reading aloud. This week we are in Coraline’s world. We will enter many more Gaiman worlds before the year is over.
So, from 19 amazing ten year olds who are daring to face fears and take risks, knowing that failure and success are all part of the academic journey, we are wondering if you would lend us your handwriting for our t-shirts. They have decided to go with the chant we say at the end of each day:
“Rising From The Ashes, Phoenixes On Fire!”
It will be accompanied by a stellar drawing from one of the students. We promise to send you one of the shirts and dub you an honorary Phoenix. Even if you don’t, we’ll still probably dub you one anyway. We’re a pretty welcoming crew.
Thank you for your consideration, your creativity, and your stories.
Ms. G and the Phoenixes
UPDATE: Neil is the BEST and responded within minutes! My students and I totally flipped! What a top notch guy!
UPDATE #2!!: The t-shirts arrived and they are the most amazing ever and my students are proudly wearing them around and casually dropping that “well, you know, author Neil Gaiman totally did the handwriting so, you know.”
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