Saturday, September 21, 2013

Words On Paper. Year Two.

I have a fantastic job.

I have two, actually.

One I talk about all the time. I post funny photos of my coworkers and the furry dog that is constantly stealing pizza crusts out of the trash. Job duties include clean clothing processing, mediating disputes over fire trucks, and grocery procurement.

The other? I don't talk about it too much. I think I've mentioned it once or twice here, maybe mostly when I was worn out after a long day and even then I mostly gushed about how much strength public school teachers must possess. It's also a privacy and safety issue for the kids and their teachers. They don't need their names or schools out there.

A couple of my friends have asked what I did with my time when I left the house once a week for six hours, and after my first six-hour training of the year, I figured I 'd update and catch my folks up to speed.

I'm lucky enough to work for an organization called Writers in the Schools (WITS) Houston. I was screened, selected, and trained for a 26-week residency in a local Houston elementary school and ended up teaching five classes of fourth graders last year. I spend the week prior figuring out what I wanted them to learn (anaphoric poetry? personification? myths? narrative writing? fractured fairy tales? Did 'em.) Experiments with alliteration and water color, too.

We even modeled a Muhammad Ali press conference speech and worked on our exaggeration, boasting, and rhythm (favorite lesson plan I ever came up with). The whole year was amazing. And it was exhausting. And then it was over.

This summer WITS, allowed me to teach freshly graduated second graders (third graders!) for five hours a day, over two weeks. I was exhausted after that, but so thrilled to be doing what I'm doing. Had I a normal Monday through Friday, 9-5 I wouldn't be able to dedicate one day a week to teaching young minds to create and write their hearts out.

My kids so far have been open and receptive. I'm just as random and uninhibited with them as I am with my own kids. We've danced the gangnam style to loose up our brains and shake the sillies out. We've mooed like roosters and quacked like cows when we decided it was time to shake the world up a bit.

Today was our annual training and we heard stories from some of the other 100+ writers out in the field. One of my favorites talked about an assignment she'd been working hard to get that happened to be at the juvenile detention center. She talked about these young kids with chips on their shoulders and grit in their eyes. And one who had an episode and after she'd torn apart the classroom and thrown books at the window and torn off all of her clothing, she sat in the middle of the room and sobbed. Crying "I want my mama" over and over.

As a mama, this tore my heart out. I have no idea what she did or didn't do to get in there. I only knew that in that moment in time, she was hurting and her mama wasn't there for her.

The point of that story was the good work that programs like WITS does. It gives kids, all kids, everywhere, a voice.

Another writer shared the creed she has her class recite each week after they finished.

"I have a voice.

My voice is powerful.

My voice can change the world."

Every week. Every time. These kids know the words by heart and they believe them.

I am so damned lucky to be part of this organization. I'm still waiting for my call to see what school I'm headed to this year and it's a little like I get my own first day of school jitters. What kids will I get? Will they like me? Will they like Jack Prelutsky as much as I do? Will any of them know who Richard Peck is? How many will have at least one Shel Silverstein poem memorized?

I hope the kids are ready. I know I am.

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1 comment:

  1. That's awesome... So sad, re: that little girl. But you're right... What an awesome organization to be a part of.