Lifesavers Don’t Always Come in Rolls – Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!!

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Three years ago, I visited a class whose teacher told me that I “needed to speak with them.” She’d said she had a lot of “Carleys” from my first book, ONE FOR THE MURPHYS. I’d been scheduled to speak to them for 45 minutes. I was there for 2 1/2One for the Murphys Hi-res hours. And, yes, there were a lot of kids struggling with life’s circumstances. I could see it in their body language, their questions, and how some averted their eyes when stories relating to resilience came up. How I’d had to dig down and find my own when I was their age.

When I left, several followed me into the hallway. It was fun and lively and they made jokes as I walked backwards to face them. Then their teacher called them back and I turned to go. And then I heard my name.

I turned to look into the eyes of a boy as tall as me with dark, wide eyes. He took a deep breath and when he exhaled, his body sagged. He shook his head a bit and finally said, “I’ve been through an awful lot.”

I didn’t ask what. Instead, I gave him the room to share what he wanted. The little he did share broke my heart. One of the things that struck me was how his teacher had obviously been helping with far more than English, math and history. She was helping him lay a foundation to navigate the future. After we talked for about ten minutes, he said to me, “My teacher tells me that I can’t be thinking of myself as a victim.”

I held his shoulders and looked him in the eye and said “No. You will not be a victim. You will grow up and do great things in the world. You will use these experiences to help others. You will not be a victim. You…will be a conqueror.”

He nodded once and he swallowed hard. I could see he was already working on that.

I have since met several kids like this and as I think of them, I always think of their teachers as well. For every talk I’ve had with a child, there is an adult nearby. Circling from afar. Glancing over. Checking in. These kids have emotional safety nets in these teachers and I am grateful for them every single day. I wonder if these teachers realize that they are saving lives.

I’ve met teachers who buy books and food and jackets for kids in need. Teachers show up at author events two hours from their homes because their students couldn’t get there otherwise. And then they thank me—this always floors me. And then there are the teachers who are not able to do these things outside of school but do a darn good job of teaching and igniting curiosity in their kids. They take their calling seriously. They make kids want to come to school—which opens huge doors. I had such a teacher.

Having been a quiet, disheveled student whose standardized test scores said I was illiterate I showed up to sixth grade expecting to fail. Again. I had been in the lowest reading group since first grade and spent a lot of time looking around the room and wondering why I couldn’t do the things the other kids could do. I had begun to wonder what would become of me.   FullSizeRender(4)

And then I met Mr. Christy, my sixth grade teacher. He smiled when I walked into the room. He set high expectations and then ensured my success. He lifted me from one life path and set me on another. He changed the trajectory of my life by changing my perception of myself. He did this by focusing on the child rather than the student—and the student flourished. Regretfully, I didn’t have the words to thank him at the end of the year; I think eleven-year-old me was overwhelmed. Even though he has now passed away, I hope he knows that I’ve finally written him that thank you note. It’s 288 pages long and entitled, FISH IN A TREE.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Giveaway for teachers for Teacher Appreciation Day:

TEN winners will be chosen ~ I will give away one signed hardcover of your choice (One for the Murphys or Fish in a Tree) to ten different winners. Each winner must be able to provide a school address. After all, it IS a Teacher’s Appreciation giveaway.  I will happily personalize it as well.

To enter, please leave a comment below and/or tweet / Retweet with the hashtag #OFTM which will help me find your entry.

Giveaway ENDS on Thursday, May 12 at 11:59 PM.

 

75 Comments

  1. Lynda, you are so inspirational to teachers and readers, and everyone really. I’m sure that you had a lasting impact on those kids both before your visit and during.

    I am so thankful for you.

    Like

  2. I love being a teacher and librarian. Books are often the way students discover that they are not alone in the world. Seeing characters overcoming obstacles is inspiring and empowering. Teachers and authors are heroes. When we work together it makes us both superheroes! #OFTM
    Rebecca Flowers
    Walker Upper Elementary School
    Charlottesville, VA

    Like

  3. My kids can’t get enough of your books. They always bargain for a few extra minutes of reading or one more chapter. Thank you for writing books that our kids can relate to.

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  4. Lynda, I don’t know if you remember me — I met you at SCBWI in NYC a few years back, both of us newly Apocalypsies. I just finished reading One for the Murphys (I know, I’m always lagging behind!) and immediately wanted to share it with my reading intervention students. I’m hoping to get my school to order a set of both of your books for reading circles next year. This is a beautiful post. 🙂

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  5. Lynda, I’m so happy I found your work and I’ve had the chance to meet you. I have already shared FIAT aloud with four classes and OFTM with dozens of individual students. Now I have the joy of sharing your books with my son. Each reading gets better. Your heart reaches out and touches us all! Thank you!

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  6. I balled when I finished the end of One For the Murphy’s. My class loved the the message in Fish in a Tree. Very powerful. You are an amazing writer. Thank you for writing such powerful stories.

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  7. This post brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for writing books that touch our children. I read Fish in a Tree last summer and loved it, our 5th grade teachers have read it to their students. This summer One for the Murphys is on my list.

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  8. Lynda, I am a teacher librarian in a K-5 school. My older kids love FIAT and so do I! All kids have different learning styles and as a teacher I really appreciated your characters in FIAT, especially the wonderful and patient teacher who helps your main character to learn how to read without embarrassing her and embracing her special gift for art.

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  9. I have read both of your books to my students for the past two years. I can see in the eyes of students how they can relate to Carley and Alley. I feel greatful for discovering your books. Every time I read them I know I am changing lives. Thank you!

    Northside Intermediate School
    159 Northside Drive
    Milton, WI 53563

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  10. Thank you for a beautiful message. My students and myself love your books! Thank you for writing stories that they are able to relate to!

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  11. Your FIAT story transformed not only one of my student’s lives this year (probably many more), but my life as a teacher. Please know the power of your pen and how much better you are making our world. Thank you for it all.

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  12. We’ll be discussing One For the Murphys as we tackle “social issues” book clubs. It’s on my top ten all-time favorites list. Thanks for creating it!

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  13. Ohhh! What a special treat that would be! You are so great! My class really enjoyed you and your book FIAT during #gra15!

    Annette Burns
    Springtown Intermediate School
    300 Pojo Road
    Springtown, TX 76082

    Like

  14. It’s been my pleasure to spread the story of Carly and Ally to different teachers, students and parents. They both have such real and needed stories to tell to the world! You are such an inspiration and each time I hear you speak, you amaze me more than the last. I know there are more books in the future; please never stop helping to change and inspire the future of this country!

    Like

  15. My students LOVED Fish in a Tree and repeatedly noted how well they could relate to the characters. This is a challenging group that found a connection with your writing. I can’t wait to read another to them in a few weeks.

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  16. We appreciate you and your gift, crafting artful worlds and characters that help set the stage for these important conversations

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  17. You have a big heart, Lynda, and great talent! Thank you for supporting teachers, and more importantly, kids.

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  18. I may teach math, but I know my students love your books, and I love your message, that children can rise above their circumstances, and we can help them.

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  19. Fish In a Tree is a book so full of hope. I am so thankful for writers of the heart, such as you, for bringing these stories into the world.

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  20. I had read a lot about FIAT and once it was on the shelf it never stayed there long, Then a student asked me why we didn’t have OFTM so she loaned it to me and now I need to buy multiples of each. Thank you and we can’t wait for your next book.

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  21. This book has already changed so many kids’ lives; my class and colleagues have been forever touched by your words. For me, your portrayal of a teacher who went out of his way to not just embrace his students’ differences but lift them beyond and highlight their talents was particularly inspirational his year in my career. It challenges me to do the same every day. Thank you for the gift of your words.

    Like

  22. Ally inspired my students to be brave, to develop a voice, and to learn perseverance. Mr. Daniels taught me that loving and understanding my students not only affects my kiddos, but affects me for the better, and strengthens my own personal relationships, inside and outside of the classroom. From you, Ms. Hunt, my students and I both learned that dreams have no boundaries, and all of our personal experiences are stories that are most definitely worth sharing.
    Thank you-
    Julie Yandell
    Jefferson Elementary
    4628 Mistletoe, Wichita Falls, TX 76310

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  23. This is an amazing tribute to the love and commitment of teachers, and the impact they have every day. I have no doubt that Mr. Christy knew you would go on to do great things and inspire others. Just like you know that boy with the dark eyes will do the same. Thank you for this post. Teachers truly are a gift!

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  24. Love both of these stories immensely! Feeling blessed that you’ll be coming to visit our school this fall. Thanks for giving a voice to the often overlooked.

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  25. Every day I am in awe of my colleagues and how much they care for their students. Thank you for giving us stories we can share that make us think, help us connect, and inspire us and our students!

    Like

  26. I used One for the Murphys as a class read aloud this year. It is very difficult to engage many of my students in any activity related to reading, but they were entranced by Carley’s story. I’m sure that many of them saw a bit of Carley in themselves as well. We also used FIAT in a guided reading group of struggling readers, who connected with Ally’s frustrations and negative perspective towards school. They became more confident as they realized that their difficulties with reading did not define them, or their level of intelligence. I had to pick their jaws up off of the floor when they recognized the quote from C. Connors in the principal’s office. I would love to have a signed copy of One for the Murphys or Fish in a Tree to share with my students who feel so inspired by your stories!

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  27. My students LOVE your books! Both Fish in a Tree & One for the Murphy’s are part of our book clubs throughout the year. Thank you for writing books that engage kids & get them to ask deep questions!! I appreciate all that you do!! I love following you on Social Media!
    -Amanda

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  28. Your beautiful words always reach my soul. This piece is no exception. This is why we teachers thank YOU. Bravo, Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

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  29. I also had a teacher named Mr. Christy who was a life changing teacher! He was new to my school in Lexington, KY my 4th grade year. I wonder if it was the same person! He was a finalist of the chosen teachers to go up in the Challenger. I’m so grateful his blood pressure was too high to go. He was such a wonderful human being. I remember in his 4th grade class it was the first time a ever got a “B” and I thought life was over. But he assured me life would go on and a “B” is nothing to be ashamed of. What a wonderful man! I’m so thankful he was my teacher.

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  30. Ms. Lynda Mullaly Hunt,
    This post touched my heart. I cried and I remembered that teacher that saw through the poverty and circumstances and realized that I had something to give to the world. His name was Mr. Lawrence and he was my 5th grade Science teacher. Is it a surprise that I majored in Biology in college? I have been blessed with many teachers like him, but he was the first that set the path for me to always make a connection with my teachers. I love your books and I would love to win FISH IN A TREE. Thank you for being who you are! 🤗❤️

    Like

  31. You are amazing and your characters have touched my life in a profound way. I only hope I’m that kind of a teacher to my students and I hope that I help the teachers I mentor br one the kind of adult no child should live eithout. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

    Like

  32. I have given Fish in a Tree to many teachers! I love it! I too had an amazing teacher in grade three who believed in me. I now help teachers improve their practice. Thank you for your story! You inspire many!

    Like

  33. I can never seem to have enough copies of your books. My students live in poor communities and so many of them can relate to the characters in your books. Even the most shy kids will come and talk quietly after they have read them. We can’t wait for more books by you!
    Kim
    Sloggett
    Librarian, Kerr Elementary

    Like

  34. I read Fish in a Tree. I made my husband who is a sixth grade history/science teacher and fifth daughter read it too. We all hold a dear place in our hearts for your beautifully touching book. Even your write up about this contest made me weep for all of the students who just need that one teacher to see them.

    Like

  35. FIAT is brilliantly written so that every child can make connections. I love that the main character is a girl and I love that we see her struggles through so many eyes.

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  36. Lynda- you signed a copy of Fish in a Tree for my son at NESCBWI & he is racing through it! He’s a good reader, but doesn’t often find a book that he devours like this one. I can’t wait for him to finish so I can read it, too. And he’s proudly wearing the wristband, too. Thanks!

    Like

  37. I hope I have been or am a Mr. Christy to one of my students. My students loved FIAT and their interactions with you during GRA. Thank you for your inspiration.

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  38. Lynda, When you read as much as I do, it’s not often that you find a book that really pulls on your heartstrings like “Fish in a Tree.” Since reading it, I’ve been recommending it to my middle school students. As a librarian, I doubt that there’s anything more important than helping students identify with book characters who face some of the same challenges they do. Thanks for helping us do so.

    Like

  39. Lynda, FIAT has touched so many of my students and countless readers throughout the world. Thank you for being a ray of hope for so many children who just need a little light in their darkness!

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  40. And I can’t thank you enough for the impact your stories have had on our class culture and environment. Having your books awaken the desire to read in our classroom was an added bonus.

    Reyna De La Mora
    Huff Elementary
    801 Hastings St.
    Elgin IL. 60120

    Like

  41. Your books speak to my heart so much. Thank you for creating characters that my class loves and can relate to. Your voice is one that I always share with my fourth graders each and every year! Thank you is all I can say…

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  42. Lynda,
    You’re such a powerful voice. Thanks for your continued support for teachers. After meeting you at the CASL conference at Mohegun Sun, you’re passion, dedication, and kindness is unparalleled. Thanks for all you do.

    Like

  43. Lynda,
    You’re such a powerful voice. Thanks for your continued support for teachers. After meeting you at the CASL conference at Mohegun Sun, you’re passion, dedication, and kindness is unparalleled.

    Jimmy
    @mrsapia_teach

    Like

  44. Lynda, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate Fish in a Tree. While reading that book for the Global Read Aloud this year, I felt such a connection to Ally. I’ve had so many students in my 15 years of teaching that remind me of her. I could picture individual students’ faces as I read different parts of the book. Thank you so much for a story that speaks to the student that is unique and wonderful!

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  45. Lynda, Thank you so much! I have been in love with Fish in a Tree all year, and tonight after reading this blog post I am even more in awe. What an inspiration to many students. Thank yoU! #OFTM

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  46. You are such an inspiration! I read Fish in a Tree to a group of students in the library this year and they loved it. Thank you for continuing to write stories that touch the lives of children and adults.

    Like

  47. My kids can’t get enough of your books. Your characters are so relatable. Thanks for thinking of teachers!!

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  48. My students absolutely loved reading Fish in a Tree! We read it during the Global Read Aloud…and they still talk about it almost daily! Thank you for writing such a wonderful book that so many students can relate to and love reading over and over!

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  49. THANK YOU ALL FOR entering! The winners are: 1) Susan Reilly, 2) Julie Yandell, 3) Kelly Martineau, 4) Christina Hanson, 5) Corrina Allen, 6) Jimmy Sapia, 7) Amanda Schreiber, 8) Laura Curtis, 9) Sandra Delgado, 10) Scott FIllner

    Again, thank you. I am so grateful:-)

    Like

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