My motto of saying yes to opportunity has led to me to show up feeling unqualified before. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when standing in front of a room of seventh graders that the little voice in my head asked me – what did you think you were going to accomplish here?
I immediately said yes when asked to be the Zinn Writer in Resident at Liberty Memorial Central Middle School. My daughters attended Central and the task seemed to fit in nicely with a word that has been guiding me this year – contribute.
All seventh graders at Central will work with me this semester on telling their own story. We are currently working on six word memoirs, a surprisingly challenging exercise for anyone that is also fun when you get into the swing of it. We will produce a book of these memoirs and may have opportunities to share them as public art.
But friends, this kind of work is not for the faint of heart – or as I shared in a new six word memoir with the kids this week – TEACHING SEVENTH GRADE IS REALLY HARD. I come from a long line of educators, going back to grandparents on both sides, I should know this. Now I do.
Some of the kids simply don’t participate, those are the hardest for me. I can only hope that some part of the discussion is slipping into their consciousness, that they heard something that caused them to flutter internally because they could relate somehow. Or that they had an idea pop in their heads for something to put into words but for whatever reason, just didn’t try to yet.
Some of the kids write six words about themselves that are so clever, funny and insightful that I smile just thinking about them. Others are heartbreaking and I need to talk to their real teacher after class. I can see the gears clicking in others as they try their hand at choosing words to capture their thoughts. It’s pretty powerful stuff.
I don’t want to forget that –
- Teachers may have the most important jobs that exist. My respect for their work knows no bounds.
- Being a kid in school is no small task. I had forgotten how it feels to walk through a crowded hall full of teenagers.
- Trying to identify with someone else’s experience helps me grow as a human being. I want to continue to put myself in new situations in order to learn more about other people.
- Words are powerful. If I can help people use them well, I will have something to feel good about.
So even though I feel like I am stretching my abilities in this current project, I will use a six word memoir to say – ALWAYS GRATEFUL TO TRY SOMETHING NEW.