BulgingButtons

Not bad for a fat girl


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Testing Time Again

It seems like I’m always writing about state testing. Maybe that’s because it always feels like state testing time.

Today the little munchkins are taking a writing test. They will read articles at, or above, their reading ability, then write some type of adult inspired essay on whatever topic they’re given. I feel for them.dpgcjz9_5cdv8cshq.jpg

This task is hard. Sitting in one place is hard. Being quiet is hard. Doing one activity for an extended period of time is hard, especially if it isn’t an activity you’ve chosen. And if it’s one where you don’t feel confident? Well, that’s just torture.

I’ve tried to prepare them for what they’re about to encounter. I’ve tried to give them lots of opportunities to write and learn various strategies and techniques. I’ve tried to build their capacity and confidence as writers. I’ve tried. But the thing you have to remember is this: they’re little kids. Give them a break. Give me a break.

If you really want to see kids write, let them write about worms and aliens and Pokemon and colonies of warrior hamsters. Let them write about the time they went to the beach or the way their aunt does their hair or their favorite video game. Let them describe their dream birthday party or bedroom. Let them examine an ordinary object up close and write about what they notice. Let them be playful and imaginative in their writing. Don’t make them write about the benefits of recycling or the contributions bees make.

Let them tell you about the time the power went off during a summer storm, or the time they went camping and forgot the bug spray. Let them write about their favorite stuffed animal or their favorite dessert. Or how about this? Let them write about the time they had to live in their car for a while or about how their uncle shot himself or how they found their mother dead in bed. Yes, all those things have happened to students in my care. You want to give them another state test? Fine. But let them be kids, please. They’ll grow up soon enough.


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No November

unnamed.jpgI’m shocked at myself. For the past several years I’ve participated in NaBloPoMo, that crazy challenge to publish a blog post each day. Not only have I participated, I’ve been successful. This year, however, I did not. And by not, I mean NOT. Not one single post has graced this blog since October, and now here we are knee deep in the winter holiday season.

Of course there are reasons, but none of them are terribly compelling. I could have done it. Maybe not a post a day, but at least one post sometime during the month. But nope, I did not. In fact I hummed along day to day more of less ignoring the fact that I even have a blog. A blog which I’ve nurtured for the past five and a half years. A blog that I’ve poured my heart into, not to mention quite a few hours of my life. And yet, there it sat, neglected.

Well, I’m here to apologize. I apologize to anyone who has wondered where I’ve been. I apologize to my poor lonely blog (as if it has feelings). I apologize to myself. I deserve to take the time and spend the energy it takes to sort out my thoughts and share them, even if nobody reads them. I’m back, and hopefully I’ll be around for a long time to come.


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Trying On Personalities

 

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I’ve been having a little fun with fiction. I’ve been trying on different personalities in the form of characters I’m writing. First person narratives are so different from third person. Getting into the character makes me feel like I really know him or her. Well, her. So far I’ve been working with female characters, probably because they’re what I know best.

Maybe it’s time to get a little bolder. I’ve written a few women, and they’ve been young. Far younger than I am. I suppose it’s because in my head I’m far younger than I am in my body. Teenage me is still alive and well, but fortunately she’s not in charge. Can you imagine? That would be a disaster.

Can I write older? I suppose I can try it, but it will be quite a bit more difficult. After all, I’ve been younger than I am now, but I’ve never been older. Of course I know older people, and I have my entire life, but it’s not the same as having that first-hand experience. Still, I think I’m going to give it a go.

Then there’s gender. At the moment I’m thinking in terms of simple binary, that is male and female. Again, these are the ones I’m most familiar with. Yes, I have met transgender people, and yes, the people I’ve met have been lovely, but I don’t know nearly enough about their experiences in the world to pretend to be able to write a convincing character at this point.

I’ve written characters from different backgrounds, from a former child soldier in South Sudan to an undocumented Mexican man full of machismo to a little girl living in foster care unsure of her future. None of these characters have been in first person, though. I think it would be enlightening to go back to some of these people (yes, I know they’re imaginary, but they’re still people) and write from their points of view. What is that scared little girl seeing and hearing in the dark in a strange bedroom far away from her family? How does his past haunt the Sudanese “Lost Boy” and does he feel survivor’s guilt? What, and who, did the Mexican man leave behind when he crossed the border? Was it worth it? Will he ever voluntarily go back?

It’s a fascinating exercise in empathy and creativity. At our core we share undeniable similarities. How these manifest, and how our differences separate us, are topics of unending wonder. I’m so lucky I can write my way into whatever personality I feel like choosing.