So I decided to start out the year with a narrative writing workshop. I based my decision on the success of last year’s writing workshop, which I held off until the end of the year. Despite its place at the end of the year when student and teacher energy was extremely low, the entire class really enjoyed it. On top of that, since the writing was mainly personal narrative, I found out things about my students that I wished I’d known all year. Traumas, triumphs, trials, tribulations: I truly regretted not hearing these stories earlier in my relationship with the students. With those two thoughts in mind, we launched this year with the personal narrative.
Here’s the problem: I start my workshop off with a discussion of storytelling (I think I’ll probably be devoting some future posts to this as my approaching ACC presentation will feature storytelling prominently). To get students thinking about the stories from their lives, I tell one of my own: the story of my father’s death.
The story simultaneously inspires, breaks hearts, and remains extremely hard for me to tell even after five years. With my students last year, I told the story easily. We’d spent 8 months or so together by that point, so I was comfortable revealing myself to them. When I got up in front of this new batch of kids, though, I felt something I hadn’t felt when teaching in a long time: fear. I felt naked up there in front of the kids. Would they laugh or crack jokes? Would they think I was being melodramatic? Would this story weave its magic on them or cause a rift in our budding rapport?
Fortunately, my worries were assuaged. The story worked just as well with these students as it did with my students last year. The lesson was a success, and we’re now pretty far along in our personal narratives. I believe that throwing oneself to the mercy of the wolves can sometimes pay off. Sometimes we find out that they weren’t really wolves after all. They were labrador retrievers: loyal, a little goofy, eager, and willing to work.