Saturday, September 13, 2008

On Memories and Writing

I finished this school week with a sense of satisfaction... feeling a little like a fat cat after finishing off a delicious meal. It's always this way after my students finish a big project. Although for me, the project is a long way from being finished. In fact, it awaits my attention now. All 90 tasty tidbits of writing that I will consume over this weekend and possibly next week, too.

The tidbits are actually memoirs my students have been writing this past week. And while some may be more like appetizers, I know that I have some five-course meals somewhere in the stack ready to be consumed. Regardless of the outcome, I am so proud of the effort put forth by my students. Only a handful gave half-hearted attempts and resisted efforts to revise. All of the others dove in, working diligently to not only produce their first drafts but to thoughtfully revise their work based on my suggestions.

Memoirs are a little tricky with 8th-graders. Some have already experienced more sadness and heartbreak than many adults have experienced. Issues of abandonment and loss are often the norm, whether their experiences have been based on the death of a parent, or the fact that a parent left home and never returned. Runaway parents, I suppose.... who are free to remain runaways even though their children suffer the consequences.

A few memoirs bring tears to my eyes, and there's always one or two that truly unleash my tears. I look at my students in a new light when I've finished reading their stories. Now I know why one may not smile, why one doesn't see the need for school, and why others are, well... like they are.

I always caution students who choose to write about the sad parts of life; I remind them that their stories can be about any event or person that has made an impact on them. For some, however, the happy parts are just not there. For them, the sad parts are their stories. But these stories are not just an assignment to be turned in. These stories give them a voice and a chance to be heard in a world that is not always listening.


miruspeg said...

Roban I am a great believer in writing down one's thoughts, dreams, life story.
What a fantastic project you asked the kids to participate in. I bet they will all in time appreciate being part of this project.

That last sentence you wrote sums up everything beautifully.
'These stories give them a voice and a chance to be heard in a world that is not always listening'.

When I was going through my troubled times, I was advised to write down my thoughts and found it very liberating.

Words from a song I often play:
'One day at a time, we can learn to leave the past and our fears behind and we can look the future in the eye and learn to live'

What a wonderful insight you now have of the children you teach.

miruspeg said...

The song I was referring to was 'One day at a time' by Yusuf Islam formerly Cat Stevens.
Below are two links to youtube videos of the song.
Sorry I am unable to show the link to click on here, I will have to learn how to do that.
Meanwhile you will have to copy and paste into google to view videos.

I didn't realise it was an anti war song, I just loved the words he wrote and apply them accordingly.

You can download the song from the link below.

Lastly the album the song comes from 'An other cup' is fabulous.

Take care

McMGrad89 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
McMGrad89 said...

I was just trying to say, I too love to see students writing. In the state of Texas they have sucked the love for writing out of children by making them write for the dreaded TAKS test and so hesitant writers become even more reluctant. I am glad your children are starting off the year on a the right foot.

Octamom said...

How powerful to guide your students through such a writing project. While I did keep some scanty journal entries during those adolescent years, I would love to have such an essay to look back on now, to have a small window on the person I was at that time. What a gift you are giving them.