The AIM Student publishing Contest ….A teacher’s story
By: Erin Hyatt
AIM FSL Teacher, B.C.
Our spring (2021) of online/ distance/ pandemic craziness was starting to draw to a close. I found myself really enjoying the story retelling assignments that my students were completing for their final AIM project of the year. “Wow, some of my students really write well! IN FRENCH!”
I wished that we had time to explore the possibilities and adventure that the story extensions bring. Students love to imagine what could happen after the story, incorporate their own sense of humour, and play with different character personalities. I was so sad to realize that I just could not squeeze another major assignment in.
I thought about it for days before the epiphany came… a bonus assignment! A completely-by-choice, not-for-marks, just-for-fun assignment with the incentive of entering the AIM Storybook competition where they could be published!
When I presented the idea to students, I got back what I kind of expected: crickets… nothing… rien… nada. Oh well, I thought, it was worth a try.
A few days later one of my students contacted me with a “hypothetical” question about said assignment… Mind blown! Then another one! I could not believe my eyes and ears when they both officially signed up for the Story Extension Competition with AIM Language Learning!
Over the next few weeks, I really did witness the impossible… Students voluntarily working on a French assignment, after a really weird few months of distance learning… an assignment that was not for marks, during the first couple of weeks of their summer holidays!!! I had to keep pinching myself!
Both stories were so creative, beautifully written, intricately illustrated. Not only did they write these very detailed stories, they also illustrated 20 different illustrations each (though one of the two authors enlisted some help from classmates for his illustrations!) I was so blessed and so proud!
After submitting the stories, one of the students asked me almost weekly if I had heard from AIM yet. “I’m so sorry, we have to wait until September!”, I kept reminding him. September came and he was in the doorway of my classroom every other day.
When I heard back, I was sitting in my kitchen, having breakfast with my husband. I don’t usually look at my phone during meals but I turned it over to check on something that we were talking about. I could not help but notice an email from AIM. My heart stopped. I completely forgot what I meant to check. I had to read that email! I chomped another fork full of pancakes with almond butter and maple syrup, and began reading… “We are very excited to let you know that we have decided to publish both stories that were submitted!” BOTH???? There were now little sticky bits of pancake all over my kitchen table. I immediately burst into tears! BOTH of my amazing students’ stories are going to be PUBLISHED??? Best. News. Ever.
I could not wait to tell my students! When I announced their names over the PA system and called them to my classroom that morning, they knew exactly what I wanted to announce to them! When they appeared in my doorway both of them were barely breathing. I could not stop smiling! “You both won!” Shock, amazement, disbelief, verifying the facts, shouts of joy, smiles from ear to ear… all in the span of about 10 seconds! I wanted them to be the first to hear.
Later that morning I interrupted the entire school for a couple of minutes to tell everyone about this great achievement. I made it through my prepared speech with a little quiver in my voice. One of the author’s mom works on our staff. I saw her moments later and tears were streaming down her face! Students in various classes had many questions for me that day and the rest of the week, “Are they really going to be published, like… for real?” “Can I read their books? Are you going to buy some for the school?” “Can I try that story competition one day?” And so on… Now our whole school eagerly awaits celebrating the arrival of the real-live-published story books written and illustrated by some of our very own.
Thank you AIM! You go above and beyond with your curriculum, your inspiration, and your heart for teaching children to love learning language! I am so glad that I get a front row seat!