Empowered By Pen and Paper

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Throughout these last few months, my writing class has spiraled in ways I never imagined it could. However, in the class, the teacher got taught a lesson she’ll never forget.

And it all began on the first writing class meetup in March.

I had everything set and ready to go. I had decided to decorate the classroom with a few fun things. For instance, I put brightly colored table cloths over the writing tables, created a comfortable circle for families to sit in, had a warm fire going, and even had popcorn with maple syrup drizzled on top! Yum!

Yeah, this would be fine.

I couldn’t help but feel a few butterflies in my stomach when I saw three or four families enter with close to ten children altogether. Ten children that may or may not know anything about writing. Yet, I forced those thoughts away. The point of this class is to have fun, and that’s what I was here to help them do.

That’s what I kept in my mind as I sat down and greeting the children. However, the enthusiasm that I was carrying did not seem to rub off on this bunch of bright students.

“Oh dear,” I heard my insecurity say like a devil on my shoulder, “They are not enjoying this at all. I bet their parents made them come, and now they are stuck.”

That was in my head but, instead, I said something like, “Hi everyone, I’m so happy you all are here! We’re going to have a lot of fun today.”

The children just stared at me with a bored expression as if to say, “Wanna bet?”

I could feel myself begin to coward out. This was a horrible idea. What was I thinking? These children had no interest in what I was saying at all! Most children probably hate writing anyway…

And that thought did it.

Most children probably hate writing anyway!

Why? Because they can’t write about what they enjoy or what interests them. They have to read books that may bore them and it had become a dreaded task. One that they may never touch again in their adult life.

Now in no way do I mean to put schools down. Writing is something essential and not always an enjoyment.  However, I’m homeschooled and I also know that writing essays on Shakespeare are boring! Although, writing this blog isn’t. Creating teaching manuals is a hobby for me, and writing has become therapeutic in my life!

Because when I’m writing, I’m in control. No one can tell me what I can or can’t say and I have the ability to create my own world.
Perhaps these students have never looked at it in this aspect though. They only know what they’re taught, which is reasonable but not always fun.

 

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(Here the students and I are exploring the critters that are underneath a log.)

So here was my chance to change the perspectives a bit. I asked them, to be honest, and tell me if they really enjoy writing or not.

They all said, no. Honesty is a virtue!

When I asked them why I received many different answers. Some things that were said were, “It’s boring,” or, “I’m not good at it,” and my personal favorite, “You’ll never use it.”

I realized that for these children that was the cold hard truth. That writing held no value to them at all and the only reason to do it was to get the grade.  So I used the short time we had to explain to them just how fun writing can be when you’re in control. I told them that I wasn’t going to grade them on their work and that they could write whatever they wished.

We all went for a walk in the woods and I taught them all about the process of Maple Syrup. The kids used the tools and asked many questions. Then I explained to them how important these stories were.

They seemed confused and one boy said, “No, stories are just in books.”

“Not always,” I smiled, “Everybody has a story. Right now, I’m telling you the story of the Maple Tree.”

This is my own firm belief. Everything is a story. Where you were born? How were you raised? Why did you decide on the job you did? What do you value?

These are stories we all hear every day and that means that we are all storytellers, in our own unique way. I could see the children’s faces took on a new look. Some were frowning as if in deep contemplation and some were smiling like they found the answer to their questions.

When we were done, I explained to them that we were going to head back to the center to write. Immediately, they all whined. When I asked why, they said, “We have nothing to write!”

Tough crowd.

So I faked a look of shock, “Really? You just learned all about Maple Syrup. We found the trees, did a health check on the tree, tapped the tree, named the tree, and you’re telling me you have nothing to write about?”

Then they said, “No, we do.”

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(The students are recording the behavior of a mother goose with her baby goslings.)

And they really did. One boy wrote about how a tree fell in the forest from a wildfire and a group of people came to repair it. I was blown away! This was the same child who earlier had told me he hated writing. His descriptions were amazing and his chronological order was great!

Another child I bonded with was a girl named, Maya. Maya said that she hated writing and that she will do anything to not have to write, even skip school! This sounds terrible, but Maya is a sweet, beautiful girl. Her sense of humor is the best and she kept things interesting for me, during the class. Her disinterest in writing helped me to keep pushing myself a little further to help her enjoy it.

We were joking around a lot while we were outside and she wrote about how her phone ran out of battery while she was in the woods. The reason why she states is, “All Rosa’s fault!”

I have seen Maya a few times after that. She gave me a beautiful heart charm and I made it into a necklace. I believe I made a new friend.

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(Maya and I are discussing what things to write about as the students begin their stories.)

After the class was done, the children admitted to me that they enjoyed this class more than they thought they would. I encouraged them to come back and some of them did.

The next two months of April and May were awesome! The kids were enthusiastic to get outside and start writing. They were asking questions and observing things. In our April meeting, I discussed the difference between fiction and non-fiction. Then we went on a scavenger hunt.
In May, our final meeting, the children wrote their stories outside. They also documented what they saw the animals doing. Toward the end, when I explained to them that this was our last one, they all seemed sad.

They kept saying, “Can we do it in the summer? Please, we’re not doing anything!”

I was shocked. These children, who not even two months ago stated their deep loathing of writing, were now asking me to keep the classes going.

I told them that I would if they promised to continue their writing and give me ideas about what they’d like to see. And wow did they have good ideas.

Fantasy, building, and writing directions to how they built things were just a few. So it looks like this Tween Writing Class is going to stick around, and I couldn’t be happier. Just to know that the kids are enjoying themselves and that they trust me to read their work and help them, is huge for me!

I don’t have any secret as to how I got them to enjoy this class. Perhaps lending a sympathetic ear or showing them that you want them to succeed is a good start. Not pushing but just being there as well.

I know this was a blessing from God because I couldn’t have been able to do it without His help.

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(It turned out to be beautiful weather for our May meeting! Couldn’t be more proud of these young authors!)

Our new dates for the writing sessions are as follows:

June 18th- vocal stores 1:00-2:30 pm.

July 16th- fantasy 1:00-2:30 pm.

August 13th- building and construction 1:00-3:00 pm.

If you wish to register a child please call the Nature Center at 312-744-5472
God bless!

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