Feature Blog by Program Director, Anna Ojascastro Guzon
We began with a game of truth or fiction, in which the students and tutors wrote down one true and two false statements about oneself. We then read the statements aloud and deciphered, as a class, which statements were true. Everyone seemed to enjoy this exercise of attempting to dupe each other, and everyone seemed quite skilled at dressing up a bald-faced lie as reasonable truth.
We then directed our attention to the professional liars, those wily fiction writers. We listened to three passages, two fiction and one non-fiction. I wanted to present a wide range of styles, as well as non-fiction that is fantastic enough to appear as fiction. For this exercise I chose, Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, and Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air. Keeping in mind the theory of Multiple Intelligences, the anonymous passages were printed in different colors, so during the class discussion, the students could call out, “Green is true!” or “Purple is fiction!” This method is something I’ve experimented with and the students seem to respond positively to having colors other than black and white, at which to look. The colors also allowed a simple and easy way to differentiate and label writing without saying, “Passage #3….wait which passage is #3 again?” Instead of having the students read the text aloud, I read two passages, and used an Audible recording for the third. As one would expect, some students were fooled and some weren’t, which led to further discussion.
Keeping the pace moving, the students were then asked to choose words from the passages that they felt were interesting or new to them. I often have students do this exercise, in order to inspire writing. “Work from words,” was a mantra of a former teacher, the late G.S. Sharat Chandra. Sometimes students don’t understand what I mean by, “an interesting word,” but they get the hang of it quickly. The students at Marygrove know me by now and called out words faster than I could write on the board, “Cobalt! Apex! Precarious!” This time, one student veered off track and called out words just to see if I could spell them: Onomatopoeia! Hemoglobin!
That was my cue to move on again. The students were then instructed to write a “big fat lie,” in the first-person narrative, using at least three of their circled words. They were asked to write either a sonnet, for those who enjoy numbers and/or limitations, or just write a short paragraph.
The students talked over ideas with their tutor for a few minutes, then the room became silent. Every student, including those who had resisted assignments in the past, wrote at a brisk pace, back bent, head down, palm to the forehead. As they finished, students held their work in the air, asking to read their work aloud. Those times, when students are engrossed in their schoolwork, whether they’re seven years old or, in this case, 17 to 20-year-olds, are moments of bliss. The sound of writing can be similar to those minutes of silence when one’s baby is sleeping. Students working hard is, from my perspective, the shiznit. In other words, those moments are a teacher’s daily source of joy.
The kids worked for 90 minutes straight with their tutors. They started with homework help as usual. One tutor assisted a student in typing a paper that he had hand-written. Others played a math game with dice, in which mental addition is necessary. Those with more advanced math skills may figure out one’s odds at improving one’s score, between rolls of the dice. The students didn’t want to stop playing the math game and many were still writing after our time was up. The student, who protested against the general concept of writing, last week, still had his pen to the paper, as others left the room to head for the dining hall.
The Bee Flip
It all started back when we were doing research on bees. Yes, me and my compadres were capturing photos of bees in their natural habitat. I was so fascinated with the black and yellow lines going vertically down it’s abdomen. I was so mesmerized that I tried to touch it and that’s when everything changed. It’s eyes all of a sudden turned. They turned from the flower that had their attention and turned toward me and I knew I turned into it’s target. It was at the apex of its anger.