Friday, July 18, 2008

Santa is Satan with a Beard

Today we had "midterm" evaluations - the students filled out a sheet letting me know how they think they are doing in the class, and I filled out the same sheet. They told me and explained themselves, then we had a conversation. It was great - most of the kids are perfectionists, so they underrated themselves, and it was neat to see their eyes light up when I could tell them "Yes. I am giving you this rating because you rock, not because I am trying to make you feel good." I learned that the more acting out ones actually have problems at home or this is their first time away from home, one of the girls who gets distracted the most TOLD ME to set her apart from the other girls when we are on field trips so she will stay on focus. And finally, one of the strongest students told me she came to this camp because she wants to become a poet when she grows up. "I came here so I could improve my writing, so I can grow up to be a poet." How often do you hear kids say that? NOT OFTEN, LET ME TELL YOU. I almost started crying. "And have you learned a lot about writing?" I asked. "Yes, I have," she answered with a massive grin.

Meanwhile, my brave 21 year old assistant took charge of the remaining group and did a half activity/half class thing - first, she taught them the basics of fiction (we are switching over to fiction next week) and they made up six word stories, which they then went outside and wrote on the sidewalks of the college campus we are on. After that was done - and the results were admired and photographed (pix up soon on Flickr) - she brought them back up to the room and had them do improv story games. Games where you die if you drop the plot, games where people do a live exquisite corpse type story, etc. Super fun. Very high energy, but super fun.

One of my more reserved and clever students came up with the six word "story" that is the title for today's blog. She said "I am not sure if I should tell it to you, because the assistant said I shouldn't put it on the sidewalk, so I thought it might be wrong." I finally goaded her into telling me, and I told her that while it wasn't really a story, it was really, really funny, and not so much wrong as just potential offensive - on a Dominican college campus, no less. She smiled, relieved. Offensive she could take being - just not wrong.

Quite a few of the kids in the class think that editing is a waste of time, and this is my karma, again, this week, so easy - for it wasn't until a couple of years ago that I finally *got* editing - I am not as afraid of it anymore, and I realize, and forgive myself, for not getting things "right the first time," as if there were a right to be had. It's been therapeutic, in fact, to take these 12 year olds and those of similar age through Writing Down the Bones, allowing them freedoms no one gave me at that age, though certainly plenty encouraged me in my writing, for sure!

So Santa is Satan sometimes. You can't always trust your gifts. Sometimes - usually, as Becky and I recalled for the fiftieth time last night over dinner at Pasqual's, your strength and weakness are not even two sides of the same coin, or siblings. They are the same. Move one letter two spaces over and your ego plays a whole new role in your life.

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