When I taught writing, I always used a “mentor text” to show my students what I was going to teach them. Sometimes I wrote that text myself, but more often than not, I selected a passage or picture book that had done a far better job!
Students learn by examples that model quality writing.
Here’s a favorite poem I used to share with my students, and then my own “modeled” off of it.
“April Rain Song” by Langston Hughes
Let the rain kiss you.
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops.
Let the rain sing you a lullaby.
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk.
The rain makes running pools in the gutter.
The rain plays a little sleep-song on our roof at night—
And I love the rain.
Boy-Song (modeled after Langston Hughes)
Let the boys romp.
Let the boys jump into your arms with gooey sticky kisses.
Let the boys shout you a song of joy.
The boys make fishes fly with crayons.
The boys make swords out of grass fronds.
The boys play silly animal noise games at night.
And I love these boys.
So… it’s just a little thing this poem, and feels slightly like a sister poem to yesterday’s about noisy boys. But sometimes, it helps to look through the eyes of another writer to help you see. When I “write off of” another writer’s piece, I’m modeling after their style and phrasing, but replacing their words with my own experiences. Sometimes I see newly that way.
What I see here is this:
As a mom, my experience feels similar to the young writer who approaches the blank page with excitement. Ideas. Anticipation. Only to be met with writer’s block. Errors that need revision. And nobody to read the work and encourage growth.
We, as mothers, are daily writing our parenting story, and our children’s story (until they one day fully take the writing of their own story into their hands).
When my students saw examples of polished writing to follow, when they heard me tell them how much a phrase or sentence reminded me of one of their favorite authors… they had something to go by, and felt they could achieve it.
Motherhood could be like that. Find experienced moms to observe or talk to. See how they handle mistakes. How they navigated the “blank page of parenting” they were handed long before us. Then we can pick up the pen of our parenting with confidence and write our own stories.
The idea of moms mentoring other moms is evident in Bible passages about the “elder teaching the younger” and so forth. I feel our American society has gotten away from the concept of mentoring young and new moms, to our loss. Mentors are so important for this creative space of life we call “parenting” because at the start, every parent is handed a blank page.
Who’s filling their pages with beautiful gracious parenting? Let’s learn from them!