Sunday, March 4, 2018

Finding their voices

Day 4 of 31 at TWT! 
"So we can write about anything?" Gears are obviously turning in D.'s head as she stares at her blank heart map.

I grin. "Pretty much! Anything about your life or a topic that's important enough to you that it's part of your life!"

"What about a political topic? Like, there are wars some places that nobody cares about, like Venezuela and Palestine?"

I nod, knowing that even though she lived in Jordan for a longer time, Palestine is closest to her heart. "Of course! This is a chance for you to tell those stories and make your voices heard!"

This year, as my students started brainstorming ideas for the Slice of Life Challenge, I shared a few of my favorite quotes about writing, including this one from Neil Gaiman: "Tell your story. Don't try and tell the stories that other people can tell... But as quickly as you can, start telling the stories only you can tell -- because there will always be better writers than you, there will always be smarter writers than you, but you are the only you."

And wow, have they taken that to heart right away! Often, it takes awhile before anyone writes a truly courageous, serious post, and students are usually reluctant to publish publicly instead of just within our class.

Not this year! Not only do these students have stories truly only they can tell, they are not afraid to share them! S. has followed up her first poignant post about life in Syria (you know, the one that had me sobbing at my desk!) with a riveting cliff-hanger that makes me keep refreshing my feed to see if she's written another post yet. (She's actually drafting it as I write this, but I won't peek until she publishes it!) M. shared his family's memories of the dictatorship in Argentina. D. made her love for Palestine come alive in an alluring description of Jerusalem.

Sometimes it takes days or weeks to get some momentum going for this challenge. Some years, it honestly never really seems to take hold deeply at all, or only a few students really run with it. Many years, I'm excited if one or two students post on the weekends. This weekend, with only two school days of the challenge under their belts, 6 different students have written or drafted a total of 11 posts! The rising tide of student comments from earlier in the semester is still going strong, and a variety of colleagues have left heartfelt words of encouragement, too!

More than any other year, these students are finding their voices. And their voices are incredible.
S.'s reply to my comment on her 1st post... this is why I teach!
D.'s comment to S.'s 2nd post about the war in Syria
S.'s comment to M.'s post about the dictatorship in Argentina

Those who are shocked and incredulous about the Parkland students' gun-reform initiative must not have spent much time getting to know teenagers. Teenagers are resilient, hopeful, determined, and all-around amazing, especially once they realize the power of their own voices. I'm proud and honored to work with them every day, and I'm so excited to go to school tomorrow and encourage them to keep sharing their stories!

(If you'd like to leave comments for my students, please do so! Just don't be scared when they seem to disappear -- I just have to approve them!)


  1. Amazing stories from your kids this year! They are seizing the opportunity to tell their story.

  2. Love the stories and the comments. All this helps make out world a little smaller. Your kids are learning empathy and that maybe they aren't so different after all.


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