So, I’ve been thinking about my seniors. As I decided recently, they are my people. And, they make me crazy. This is not unlike how I feel about my personal kids. I love them dearly; they make me crazy.
This past week or more, I have felt more of the “make me crazy” feelings for these young adults whom I am trying desperately to engage and teach a few more lessons before they are off to something new. I seriously doubt that a lot of the reading is getting read. If the recent test is any indication, there is also not a lot of thinking about the reading going on. I had to stop grading the test; it was too distressing. But, since I can’t seem to convince those grading fairies to do my work for me, I have plenty of other work that needs attention.
I turned to their memoir writing. I have to say that I was not really looking forward to diving into this bunch of papers. We have just finished reading Black Ice by Lorene Cary, a memoir, and I thought that some writing in the same category, memoir, would be a nice change of pace. A friend of mine posted this video on Facebook, which I showed to the class.
I think this is great stuff.
Yawn, said my seniors.
No one had come to class with an idea or topic, despite the fact that it had been part of homework for a while. The next day, people did come ready to write. We talked about a few more things: turning a real event into a story, that is still nonfiction, but which needs to be a good read; coming back around to the same idea that began the story. I suggested thinking about a goal response from readers. Should they laugh, cry, cringe? I have to say that I was not overly optimistic.
I was wrong! The pieces are funny, dramatic, revealing (but not too much so), and sad. The students are so recognizable, not only by what they chose to write about, but what the way they told their stories. One student wrote this in the email he sent me with his piece of writing:
I really enjoyed writing this paper, this is the first time I have ever felt comfortable talking about this incident.
I saw him today in the dining hall and said how much I enjoyed his piece and the interesting way he chose to tell the story of coming to a new school. And, while he did ask about the grade, he also said,
It was like what we talked about with the video. I started off thinking it was going to go one way and then it changed. I had to totally rewrite whole first paragraph.
Victory filled up my teacher self . . . “until everything/ was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!” (with apologies to Elizabeth Bishop)
It’s good to know people are listening, even when it doesn’t seem like it.
Just like my own kids.