A student wrote something that made me cry while reading it aloud. And thanks to the rules of my “Make your teacher cry” contest, my tears were caught on video.

For the past five years, I have offered a challenge to my fifth grade students:

Write something that makes me cry.

The contest was born from Sharon Creech’s Love That Dog, a book I once read to my students but no longer do because I always get weepy at the end.


There is nothing wrong with crying. There’s nothing wrong with crying in response to something you read. There’s nothing wrong with crying in response to something you have read many times before. 

But crying in front of two dozen merciless fifth graders?

Not good.

Rather than reading Love That Dog, I’ve challenged students to write something that will make me cry in the same way Sharon Creech’s story makes me cry.

Here is how the contest works:

If you write a piece for the contest, I will read it aloud to the class while the writer records my reading on video. If I cry or get weepy in any way during the reading, I agree to post the recording of the reading to YouTube with a caption of the student’s choice.

For five years, dozens of students have tried. All have failed.

Until now.

Here is a recording of me, reading Julia’s piece aloud. Unlike previous contestants, Julia decided to write memoir rather than fiction. Clever girl. And in my defense, Julia begins weeping in the middle of my reading, which may or may not have contributed to my tears as well.

Regardless, I got weepy, so Julia wins. It’s a brilliant piece of writing, so she deserves the glory that comes with her victory. Enjoy.


107 Federal Street update

As you may know, my sister and I write a blog called 107 Federal Street (named after the address of our childhood home) where we attempt to recover and discuss memories from our childhood.

107 Federal Street

The purpose is twofold:

1. My memory from childhood is good, but my sister has an unbelievable memory. She can tell you what she wore on the first day of school for every year of schooling. She remembers names and dates and events like they happened yesterday. As such, she is an invaluable resource if I ever decided to write a memoir about my childhood (which I will likely do someday). This blog is a means on mining that memory and recording it somewhere in the event that I need it someday.

In short, I’m using my sister for my own eventual benefit.

2. I like to think that we are creating a record that our children could read someday so that they can learn a little more about their parents’ life and upbringing. Our mother passed away six years ago, and with her passing went all the memories from her childhood. They are lost forever. While I have no intention of ever dying, pianos fall out of windows from time to time, so you never know when life is going to squish you. This record is for my children to enjoy someday.

Happily, readers have been enjoying it, too, responding often and favorably to me about what we write.  Kelli and I are currently on a roll. We’ve posted ten times in the past two month, including posts on our long lost step-siblings, our childhood pets and their frequent, brutal deaths, our elementary school teachers, our childhood poverty and more. If you’re interested in reading about any of these things, you can find our blog at 107federalstreet.blogspot.com