Thursday, February 22, 2018

A Day at St. John the Baptist/King Edward

I am recovering again the morning after . Oh boy I wear myself out on school visits but I always come away glad that I did them. Yesterday was no exception. I left home around 8:00 and found my way to the school along the maze of streets on the south end. I don't know if I've ever noticed the school before. I lived for awhile on Duke st when I had my first apartment but I guess I never ventured a few streets down and paid attention to the brick building housing K-8 students . I parked, went in and then was redirected to the teacher's parking lot which is kind of hidden off of Pitt st. Then I reentered an interesting building of ramps and railings and welcome classrooms. I presented to the 3-5 students first. They were wonderful. They sat on the floor perfectly still and attentive. Many kids asked many great questions.One grade three girl toward the end raised her hand and asked" Are we writing with you?" I explained that I wasn't doing a writing workshop with this group and she seemed a bit disappointed. I like to think she was one of several future writers in the crowd. The next group was 6-8 and it took awhile for them to all show up. One teacher seemed reluctant to stop teaching and bring his kids. That is not a bad thing. When they all got there I began and again they sat on the hard floor staying as quiet and still as any group could. "Were you good at L/A before you became a writer?" Good question. I did tell them I was an underachiever in school and described my path to finding or claiming my strengths.I had a quick lunch in a very typical staff room where teachers claimed a few quiet minutes and hurriedly ate their lunch. Then I faced the challenge of the day. Often times when I do writing workshops I have a smaller group who have been picked by the teachers because they like to write and will willingly participate. Now I am not complaining because I was happy to offer whatever I offered to all the middle school kids at St. John the Baptist/King Edward but let's just say it wasn't a smooth and easy two hours. Initially I was to have 50 kids for two hours. I strongly refused that scenario and took 25 for an hour each. I must say I am thankful for that adjustment as I may have left the building screaming after the first five minutes. Even though the two workshops were not the easiest I have ever conducted there were moments that shone through.Now I normally try to learn the kids names when I have a group of 25 or less but yesterday proved to be more of a challenge. Each name though lovely in itself, seemed unfamiliar and difficult to remember. My overworked brain could not kick in and I gave up after about six names. I do remember some: Jasmine, Marcel Mohammed, Danielle, Conner, Divia, Natalia, Tyson. Cayson, Jaden, Zachary, Alex, Brian, Braden, Willow, Jacob, Tiana , Aimee. Now listing them, they don't seem so daunting but believe me my head was not as clear as it is this morning. Anyway I got a bit of writing out of the kids. Tiana and Aimee wrote impressive 'I remember' pieces as did some others. We talked about why we write and things that get in the way of our writing . I read a bit and lots of good questions were asked.I did for two hours what countless teachers do everyday; try to engage a room full of personalities, backgrounds, struggles , challenges and abilities,try to juggle the class clown , the class introvert, the hidden geniuses, the underachievers, the unhappy, the unsure, the angry and the confused. Sounds impossible but yet it has its rewards. The students of St. John the Baptist /King Edward welcomed me and gave me a memorable day in their midst. I applaud each staff member and encourage each student as they enter that building each day. Thank you so much for letting me be a part of it on one foggy Wednesday in February.

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