MILLBURN, NJ - Friday afternoon, Washington school students heard from published children's author Jarrett Lerner, author of the Enginerds book series. But rather than being a one-and-done event, Lerner's visit was the kickoff to a year's worth of writing education for the fifth graders in attendance.
Over the course of the presentation, Lerner spoke to the students about what it takes to be a writer. he explained that it is a long process, with a major amount of revision, collaboration and work involved. he also came prepared with slides to show what he was talking about.
"No matter what field they go in, no matter what their passion is, regardless of whether it's similar or exactly to my own, success is all about resilience," Lerner said. "Everyone's going to meet failures, everyone will have bad days. Everyone's going to make mistakes.
"The biggest thing for them to know is that that's not disqualifying, or that's not wrong or bad. It's all about how you take those mistakes and learn from them and figure out how to hopefully not make them again and again."
After the presentation was done, Lerner stuck around to meet some of the students and answer questions. But this is not the end of his work in Washington School. Lerner will be a virtual author in residence for the students and will be working with them throughout the year.
Fifth Grade Teacher Patricia Murphy invited Lerner in to speak and also set up the grant that allows him to work with the students throughout the year. For her, giving students experience working with an author is key.
I think it's tremendously important," Murphy said. "I think the world has shrunk so much that kids today can interact with a live real author. And so much potential can come from them interacting with someone [like that]. Jarrett Lerner has a pulse, a sense of what a fifth-grader is like...and they can relate to him quite well."
School Principal Peter Mercurio was also on board with Murphy's assessment of the situation. When interviewed about the partnership, he spoke about his excitement for the learning process in his school.
"It's a really incredible opportunity for our students to engage with Jarrett in the classroom," Mercurio said. "Jarrett will appear virtually and he will have access to their Chromebooks, so he'll be able to see exactly what they're writing and be able to give them immediate feedback, which is really cool."
And as for Lerner, he is excited to work with the kids in Washington School, and help them become better writers.
It's special and exciting to get to meet kids for half an hour, an hour," Lerner said. "Some times spend a whole day in a school and get to know them, but really at the end of that, you feel like you're just scratching the surface. So to get a chance to really know all these kids on an individual basis and work with them, I'm excited to help them and also to have them really inspire me."