I spent the day with over a hundred seventh graders and frankly, I'm flipping exhausted. Five periods, forty minutes a pop. This was my friend, Susan's Intro to German class so the name tags read Wolf, Eva, Heinz, Bruno. Some students wrote their English names as well, Michael, Rital, Achim, and others chose aliases for themselves; Lulu, Sir Peter, Mr. B, Klappy. Lulu was a cute boy with dark brown hair. One kid wanted to be called Bubbles. Okay.
What was my objective? To light a fire, the tiniest spark, under these kids. To help them find their own voice, through writing, with some improv stuff tossed in for the sheer fun of it.
Each class had forty minutes to make something happened. I said, "Write a name on your paper. No Lady Gaga, no video game heroes, no Sponge Bob. Now let's write, The first thing you should know about me is..."
Then the kids stood up in lines of five and we got to meet their characters.
Bruno stood up and said, "Hello, My name is Maggie. I like to juggle."
There was guy who carried a cat in his suitcase, the lady who watched Jeopardy on television every night, the man whose name was Shark Bait.
I asked them what came to mind when they heard the word, writing. We made a quick list, then went around the room shouting out a word (although a lot of these kids spoke so softly I could barely hear them.)...imagination, stupid, sentences, adventurous, stinky, poems, nervous, essay, discovery, boring, freedom. There were no wrong answers. I mean, let's face it, writing can be very stinky. But for me, it's always about freedom. And that's why I go to schools and jump around classrooms like a mad hatter to write with kids. And teachers too.
Writing is my cure for feeling weird. And I'm thinking that's a really useful tool to pass on to a group of seventh graders. Or seventy year olds. It works with anyone.
But here's the thing I'm thinking right now as I type this. There are people out in the world who still believe that teaching is one big cake walk, with summers off.
I just want to say, You're kidding, right?