This is long, but I had to brag about it! We were given a challenge to create student activities and clubs while remaining in an online environment. My brain spun figuring out how to have our kids do something together but while remaining physically separate. It quickly occurred to me that we have a chat room / classroom program, Elluminate, where students could chat together. However, just sitting around and typing back and forth is not an activity. Finally, my brain latched on to the last online class I took as a student. It was a creative writing class where students commented on each other’s work but never met in person. The only time I ever met my teacher was when I was required to attend an open mic reading night on the physical campus. At the time, I wanted to complain that we could have had our own reading circle if we had used microphones… “Our students have microphones! They could have a virtual open mic reading group!” I immediately called my principal with this idea. In his quiet but affirming way, he urged me to iron out any details and write a formal proposal. My mentor teacher proofed it and suggested the name “Writers Read”. The proposal was submitted… and approved. Now what was I supposed to do? I had never sponsored a club before. My school had never run clubs before. I was stepping into complete foreign territory. I created a PowerPoint presentation for the English department to send out to their students, asking for their participation. Over the next few weeks, the trickle of student interest turned into a dozen confirmed readers. I started to get even more nervous because they were actually enthusiastic. What if the microphones didn’t work? What if they forgot to show? What if they wanted to show and we had a technical issue with Elluminate? The day of the meeting, students started calling me to make sure Writers Read was still happening. I assured them if they had signed up and cleared their writing with me (no profanity, no over the top violence), all they needed was their microphone. About 20 minutes before the meeting started, I logged in to prep the Elluminate room. There were already a dozen students waiting for me! My jaw dropped so hard it almost took the microphone off my own headset. I clicked on my mic, thanked them for showing up so early and asked for them to be patient while I got settled. Thankfully, my mentor teacher arrived online soon after me and started turning on chat privileges and chatting with the students while I loaded the club graphics. The Elluminate room started to swell with students and curious faculty. By the appointed time to start the meeting hit, we were at 28 people logged in. Considering only half the student population was currently enrolled in an English class to even hear about this, and considering most Elluminate sessions only have ten attendees at the most, I was hopping up and down in my chair. I explained to the group that we had a list of students ready to read and turned on the microphone of the student who was listed to go first. We heard a sharp intake of breath before he burst out a rhythmic poem called “Love Strong”. The wave of applause icons flooded the chat room and the compliments poured in before I could ask for feedback. This continued for an hour. One girl rapped about her running ability. Another read the first chapter of a novel she has written. We closed with a haunting poem of a young man with a deep voice, imploring his friend to not attempt suicide. He let us know the poem worked, which I believed with that amount of eloquence. I started to wind down the meeting, asking for suggestions. As a unit, they all roared demand more meetings than the monthly ones I had scheduled. They wanted more time to talk with each other and to share their writing. They told me this first meeting was what made their school experience feel perfect because they knew they weren’t alone in a virtual vacuum. I made promises to change the meeting schedule after the next one in February and let them chat with each other for a while longer. They had, within a little over an hour, formed a community.