Thursday, May 26, 2011

Possibilities


My younger sister Meghan works at a detention center (aka, kid jail). She loves her job so much she told me that she sometimes feels guilty cashing her checks. I'm not kidding, she really said that.

A few interesting things occurred yesterday afternoon that directly coincide with my sister's profession of love for her line of work:

1) I conducted two writing workshop/presentations for kids in the detention center - one for the detention side and one for the shelter side. Two different populations of kids.

2) Oprah had her last show.

3) The title of this post came to me as I was falling asleep last night. Possibilities....

I talked to twenty one detention kids yesterday - ranging from 14 to 20 years old. Seventeen boys and four girls. My husband asked me, "Are you nervous?"

I said, "No. More excited. I like unknowns." (possibilities)

Before my "Detention" presentation my sister took me on the tour of the facility. Every door had a lock. Every nook was under surveillance. Only one door could be unlocked at a time. The kids all wore sweatsuits and straight faces. The people that work there love my sister - I could tell. They bantered back and forth. Lots of joking and laughter.

I presented to the Detention kids in their cafeteria. They sat at round tables with arms crossed and pretty serious stares. My workshop topic was on "How to express yourself on paper." It was something I'd taught every year as a language arts teacher. Getting "you" down on paper is an art. And I had sixty minutes to see if I could get buy in and try on. (possibilities)

Believe it or not I had the seventeen boys more focused than the four girls - which is unusual. Typically boys fight tooth and nail to avoid writing anything. At least that was the case in my classroom. But not yesterday. I had kids with tattoos, beards and criminal records working on Heart Maps in the journal I brought for them. Some sketched. Some listed. Some went deep. (possibilities)

When I set them to task I walked around and sat down at each table of kids. Looked them in the eye. Listened to their responses. Encouraged them to push themselves in their map...to be honest and real. Every time I sat down, someone at the table would scrunch their eyebrows together, like, "You're actually sitting down?" 

Every kid had something in their journal by the time I was done. Every single kid.

I'm pretty sure this presentation will remain in my favorites for a very long time. It was my firs time presenting to high school kids - the age of my future CRACKED readers. And I loved it - loved every single minute of it.

I left them with the task of trying to fill that notebook with their stories - their hopes - their fears - their worst/best moments. (possibilities)

My presentation on the shelter side was with seven girls. These girls had much more freedom than the detention-center-side-kids. I changed it up a bit and had them listen to a short read aloud from Cynthia Rylant's BUT I'LL BE BACK AGAIN. Then they did a quickwrite response. Yeah, wow. Those girls had their pens and pencils working overtime.

I left the shelter girls with the same challenge - to fill their notebooks. (possibilities)

And at the end, I had a one on one revising session with one of the shelter girls. She wrote a 106 page novel. We sat together and I showed her how to go through and find the natural paragraph breaks in her writing and how to do a dialogue study using any printed novel. She wants to be a writer some day. I told her she already was a writer. (possibilities)

Then I came home and watched a DVRd taping of Oprah's last show. It was quite an ending to my day. Sort of full-circle'ish. She spoke of doing what you love (Meghan sure is) - finding your purpose, being responsible for the energy you bring to any situation and knowing that everyone has the power to change another person's life. (possibilities) Oprah's genius is that she brought topics and ideas into people's homes that forced humans beings to think. Re-think. Try. Break free. Rise above. Accept. Love. I like to believe that she is a fan of possibilities as well.

Possibilities excite me. They always have. I love pondering the future and planning for it. I honestly can't wait to keep getting in front of kids - talking craft - talking book - talking possibilities....