Today is the last day of the last seminar series for the 2010-2011 MVGS school year. This is always a sad day for me, personally, since I love our seminars. I love teaching them, I love getting to indulge my academic interests in a purely fun fashion, and I love the chance to get to know my students on a deeper level.
We teachers spend quite a bit of time with our classes; anywhere from 12 – 21 students twice a day, seated politely, listening attentively. But, we have goals, objectives, and a schedule to maintain, and given our academic rigor and the drive of our students, there’s not as much time to get to know our students as individuals as we would like. We know their essays or the way they like to structure their math problems, but knowing their stories, hopes and fears isn’t always something that we can accomplish while we’re trying to teach them rhetoric or advanced linear algebra. The genius of our school model is that we have these amazing FLEX days in which to slow down, talk, listen, and learn new things.
I decided to do a creative writing seminar this time around mostly at the last minute. In my last job, I taught creative writing every year, and I think I was a little burnt out on adolescent love poems and a youthful disdain for punctuation. So, I set a task for our little seminar: write ONE autobiographical essay. The first day of seminar, we never touched a piece of paper, instead we told stories. Family anecdotes, funny things their friends had done, my dad’s famous dead horse story…we talked for over an hour in order to decide what makes a good story and how you can transform an anecdote into something richer.
I have since had the chance to read the rough drafts of the essays created by my students, and they. are. amazing. Each and every one of them has a unique story, a family history, a set of feelings and memories they want to share that is moving and inspiring. I hope to convince one or two of them to allow me to publish their work here on the blog, so that you can all be moved, as well.
My educational philosophy is pretty traditional (concrete and contextualized are my watchwords), but seminar days at MVGS make me think every school needs time where its students and teachers can connect: without grades, pressure, or standardized testing expectations. I’m grateful our school planning team thought so, too.
Also: on some Wednesdays, there’s breakfast. That doesn’t suck, either.