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Bells Shoals Students Write From the Heart For 'Authors’ Museum'

Taking students beyond the prompt on standardized tests, Bell Shoals Baptist Academy English teacher Tammy Perkins implores students to write from their hearts. The school’s annual "Authors’ Museum" showcases the results of that effort.

Teacher Tammy Perkins writes by the heart and has little use for the prompt and tonight, March 4, she hopes to showcase the difference at an "Authors’ Museum" open to the public at Bell Shoals Baptist Academy in Brandon.

In a test-crazed world some truisms remain and to Perkins, an English teacher at Bell Shoals, the greater truth is both time-honored and time-tested by the students who grace her classrooms.

“Not to be critical of FCAT and (other standardized tests), but until you motivate someone to write from the heart, until you touch someone, you cannot get them to write,” Perkins said, in discussing the formulaic writing required on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test for writing.

“My gifts as a writer will come out when I’m brokenhearted, when I’m full of joy. Those are the times to get me to write,” Perkins said. “And that’s what we need to create in the classroom, get people to write from the heart and not from the prompt.”

The Authors’ Museum is an opportunity to showcase writing as a passion, with students presenting their work as performers, teachers and exhibitors to classmates, teachers, parents and the general public.

“You will be amazed as they read their own unique poetry, perform original dramas, and teach writing workshops,” reads the invitation to the Authors’ Museum.

“It’s a great venue for kids to show off their creative talent,” said Bell Shoals Baptist Academy Principal Sandra Carnley. “It gives your work a little more validity when it culminates in a project that goes on display. It’s something the students can take pride in and they see it’s important to learn these skills. Otherwise, it’s just something the teacher is telling you to do in the classroom.

The museum is open from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. and features the work of students in kindergarten through grade 8. Performers are from grades 5 through 8; the early grades “publish" stories and pictures together into books that will be on display in the library. There will be an outdoor café as well.

“Everyone who writes should get a chance to share their writing with others,” Perkins said, about her reasons for spearheading the museum. “The second reason is so the parents can hear their children’s hearts. I want them to catch the vision. I’ve always believed the most important teacher in any child’s life is a parent, and when you connect a parent to a teacher it is just so powerful.”

Seventh-grader , who has been assisting Perkins with the showcase, said planning for this year’s museum started at the beginning of the school year. The event’s purpose, she added, is to “open a new window for writing that a lot of people don’t see, that writing can be fun and it’s not just something you have to do for the SAT (standardized test).”

Carnley gave the effort high marks.

“There’s no stopping what this opportunity will do for our students, just giving them a desire to become writers,” the prinicipal said. “It’s amazing how much (the kids) are taking it into their hearts. It’s becoming their museum."

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