Excuse Me, Are You Listening? - 8-24
Sunday, December 20, 2009


Dear Readers,

One of my favorite things is to speak and listen to children.  So I was excited when Mr. Jonathan Walker invited me to his class to hear his students present their autobiographies to their parents and staff. 

As I gathered all of my things out of the back of my truck, I was hoping that I did not forget anything important. I could feel my heart beat underneath my coat and my footsteps fell in line with it as I walked to the front door of the school.  I was nervous and the 3rd graders that I was about to see probably would not have a clue. 

I am sure that some students would be just as nervous as they walked to the front of the class to read their autobiography projects.  I took a deep breath and thought about what I was going to say.

I felt very important because when I was in 3rd grade I could hardly squeak out a few words.   When I walked into the classroom the students were cheering and so welcoming that all the nervousness disappeared and I began to talk. 

My photographer for the day was Michael Talton, I always pick a student to take the photos and he did an amazing job.  There were plenty of other helpers who handed out newspapers and helped with other tasks.

I spoke about inspiration and how you can find it in losing.  I also read them a poem about misplacing my glasses.  It was an untitled poem and student, Graciela Brito, appropriately titled it “Oh, where could they be?”

I wrote it specifically for my visit to the 3rd grade class.  I wanted them to understand that we can all be inspired and learn even though we may be clumsy or lose things.

I spoke about running for Lansing City Council and all of the things that I learned during the process.  I also told them a story about how losing a spelling bee in middle school made me study words more and as a result my vocabulary and spelling got better.  Telling children a story and showing them a story are two different things.

I pulled out my tattered dictionary and thesaurus that I received from Dowling College's Upward Bound program.  I just can't seem to get rid of them even after 25 years.  My only request was that the students ask their parents for a college dictionary and thesaurus.  I told them that they would grow into the books.

Mr. Walker and I have been friends for many years. He has always been a hard worker and I was very surprised when he told me that he was going to school to be a teacher. 

Mr. Walker said, “I have literally wanted to become a teacher since I was a first grader at Oakview Elementary School in Muskegon. I vividly remember my teacher Mrs. Schular asking 'Jonathan what do you want to be when you grow up?'

I recall many professions racing through my mind and I thoughtfully responded 'a teacher.' I just have a passion for helping others and making a difference in their lives.”

The outer perimeter of the classroom was packed with parents, guardians, staff, friends and family members. 

Mr. Walker said, “I wanted to make this project a big deal to them. I wanted to stress the importance of good old fashion handwriting. My students worked very hard and I believe in recognizing and celebrating student achievement.” 

There were 26 students who read biographies the mistress of ceremonies was Faith Carr and she did a great job introducing the students to the audience.

Below is Sarah Williams' autobiography that she read in front of the class  (the original was perfectly hand written):

Hi, my name is Sarah Williams.  I was born in June of 2001 in Lansing, MI.  I have an older brother and an older sister.  Their names are Jon and Alicia.  We all play and have fun together. Also, I have a Mom and Dad. Their names are Mark and Corina Williams.  I go to St. David's Church.  I like going outside and riding my bike.

I'm a 3rd grader at Lansing Charter Academy, where my teacher's name is Mr. Walker.  I enjoy going to school because I learn more things.  My big moment was taking the MEAP test, it was hard.  What makes me happy is eating Chinese food.  The college that I want to go to is the University of Michigan.  When I grow up I want to be a teacher because it looks fun and I can help others.  I want to teach first grade because I love kids and I will be able to teach all subjects.

I will work hard to make all my dreams a reality.

By Sarah Williams

After the readings a celebration was in order.  There was cake, cookies and punch. 
But before we left the classroom, Sam Hosey, one of the students who read their autobiography from memory stood up and said he had something to say.

He told me that he was proud of me for running for City Council and that I did a great job.  He added that he was appreciative that I came to give the students encouragement but he wanted to encourage me to keep up the good work. I thought, “Wow, Sam is a 3rd grader.If only adults could be as encouraging.”

I could see the sincerity in his face and I am hopeful for our new generation.  I was surprised and then began smiling broadly.  The students made me feel so special. I hope they keep in touch with me in 4th grade. I learned a lot from them.  Thank you Sam and all of Mr. Walker's 3rd graders for making one of my dreams a reality.


Rina Risper

P.S.  In the next edition, I will be writing about being a third grader in Brooklyn, New York.  Oy vey, what an interesting time.  Happy holidays.  Email me with some story ideas that will impact the community.  Peace.


Would you like to e-mail us?  Have a press release or story idea?  Questions about obituaries?  Send us your questions and comments to:




Click here for regular advertising rates!!!

 Check out TNCP's Birthday Advertising!!!!

Custom-embroidered logo shirts and apparel by Queensboro

Support our advertisers. Follow the link to their site:

Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau