My Day Job as a Magician (and why you should get involved)

Students step into our space, and it begins.

They transform, immediately. You can actually see it with the naked eye; students come in rushing from the hallway, loaded down with books and assignments and stress and test grades and worries–but once they cross the threshold, they stand up straight. They pause. They look around. They breathe.

The tunnel vision of just-trying-to-get-through-the-day is gone; the curiosity begins.

The curiosity isn’t limited to students–when adult visitors or tutors or guest speakers come to see how we’ve “disrupted” education so effectively, they’re taken aback by how the Writers’ Room looks. Our space is beautifully, blessedly different from how schools usually appear; we look more like a trendy startup than a classroom. Entering our space is like going from a zoo to a campsite, going from constricted pacing to gazing up at the stars in awe. With us, EVERYONE’s curiosity is piqued.

And with that curiosity, we work wonders.

Students sit down and open up. They linger in our space during lunch hour, hanging back until they’re a minute or two late for fifth period. They stay after school, and while they’re here they write the most amazing things.

They write about experiencing the 2010 earthquake in Haiti as a child and then moving to the United States. They write about witnessing gun violence in their neighborhoods–the horror, the fear. They write about being feminists and their plans to change the world. They write about Black Lives Matter. They write about ghosts. They write about outer space. They write about sunshine, about crushes, about poverty. They write about life.

They write lines that echo through readers’ heads for days because they’re so beautiful and so true.

And then we publish them.

We publish them professionally, with real graphic designers and copyeditors, in books that look at home right alongside the new best sellers when they’re displayed on the front tables of your local bookstore. JK Rowling, John Grisham, Stieg Larsson, and a group of 14 year olds from a local public school–all on the same shelf. (Kids tend to like English class a bit more after they’re published authors.)

According to educators, we’re miracle workers. We achieve what tests and detention and attendance policies can’t do: we keep kids in school. More than that, we keep them happy. In this age of controversial detention practices and discussions of a preschool to prison pipeline, we offer a very effective solution.

According to students, we rock.

We are fun and interesting and a break from the ordinary. We respect our students and their stories, and we provide room for them to grow.  We listen to them, and we tell other people to listen to them. We heal wounds inflicted by the red pen, and we cure all episodes of writer’s block. A blank page is something to look forward to rather than to be dreaded. With our expertise and our compassion, with our pencils and our design templates, we revolutionize the world.

So that’s what I do all day, in my day job as a magician. That’s why I get up so early and why I stay so late. And that’s why you should get involved with us in the 826 Boston Writers’ Room!

Here are a few ways to get involved:

  1. If you are a student in a k-12 school in Boston, ask your English teacher if they know about 826 Boston–ask if they can bring us into your classroom and make things fun. Ask if they can take your class on a field trip to 826 Boston headquarters. Ask if they can help you be one of our high school interns.
  2. If you work in higher ed in Boston (or if you are a college student/grad student), see if your school’s service learning/volunteering program works with us yet. See if your school’s education department works with us yet. You might even sign up to volunteer with us independently!
  3. If you are part of a faith community in Boston, organize a group of people to volunteer with us as tutors! http://www.826boston.org/get-involved/volunteer/
  4. If you are a k-12 teacher in Boston, reach out to us to bring tutors into your classroom to assist with your curriculum. Talk to us about how we can provide resources for a book project for your class. Talk to your administration about building a long term partnership with us–maybe your school can host our next Writers’ Room!
  5. If you work at a library or bookstore, make sure your library or bookstore stocks 826 Boston’s books! http://826-boston.myshopify.com/collections/books
  6. If you are a human being who can read, buy our books! Keep an eye out for our newest books coming in late May, especially They Don’t See What I See, wherein O’Bryant High School 9th graders discuss their experiences with the beauty and the struggle of the American Dream. http://826-boston.myshopify.com/collections/books
  7. If you have the resources to support us financially (or if you have friends and family who might have resources to support us financially), participate in our fundraiser, the Literary Heptathalon. https://www.gifttool.com/athon/MyFundraisingPage?ID=1983&AID=3277&PID=546232
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