You could see the frustration and even the anger on Ted’s face and his gait was he stalked down Madison Avenue that blustery fall morning. He had thought himself a book author or a poet. Nevertheless, the great publishers of New York had repeatedly demonstrated the error of his ways. A volume of the verse would not sell these days and anyhow Ted’s particular volume was simply too different. They continually surmised that is was just too fantastic. However, this thirty-three-year-old poet tried to argue that it was not fantasy but that the main setting was real. The recollections came from street life in his hometown of Springfield Massachusetts. The seasoned editors just brushed his protests aside and further complained that no subtext and no message was evident in his writing. Twenty-seven respected publishing houses had perused Ted’s imagined masterpiece and all had rejected it.
Therefore, down Madison Avenue the would be author marched on that frustrating morning with his twenty-seventh rejection. The universally hated manuscript clamped angrily under one arm. I have plans for this thing he thought. I am going to return to my apartment and vent my aggravation by burning this document. A bonfire of all the rejected, frustrated, and maddening moments it had caused over the time of its writing. In his mental state of despair, Ted started to laugh. However, before he could get started in his self-loathing laughter at himself, a voice from outside his head said: “Ted is that you?”
The owner of the voice was Mike McClintock, a schoolmate, from Ted’s Dartmouth days. They choked on a nicety or two before Mike asked, “What is that under your arm?” Ted replied what it was and what he had in store for it. Mike seemed to ignore the remark and said, “We are standing outside my new office. Why don’t you come on up and take a look?” Well Mike’s new office, which Mike had only worked for all of three hours, was Vanguard Press. This was a publisher, and more importantly, it was a publisher that Ted had somehow overlooked. Most importantly the publisher’s president, James Henley, was plotting a new publishing strategy. Purchase and promote what other publishers were rejecting. You most likely have guessed the rest. Ted certainly was published. He later marveled that if he had walked down the other side of Madison Avenue that day, he would have been in the dry cleaning business.
In the winter of 1937, following twenty-seven turn downs by the high and mighty of the New York publishing establishment, there was a little volume that was on the verge of incineration titled, And To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street. That was followed by Horton Hatches The Egg and soon followed by How the Grinch Stole Christmas and then The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham. That’s right, you know their creator as Ted Geisel or more fondly known as Dr. Seuss.
As we move into this time evaluating our students, try to remember how our evaluations and judgments can change the course of how they view themselves. It took one member of the publishing community to see the power in what Ted was writing. If it wasn’t for that, we wouldn’t have all the great books we have shared with children.
Thanks for looking for the uniqueness of our students and building positive connections between their hopes, dreams, and the skills that they will need to fulfill them. It is the continued modeling and making of those connections that will spur our students to keep working and striving for their futures.