Teaching and Writing

I had planned to write two weeks ago, but, due to a turkey flying into a transformer and taking out power, our internet was all messed up.  For three days we had intermittant service and none at all last weekend.  Very frustrating.  We still are having some problems, but not as bad.  For someone who thought they didn’t use the internet that much, it felt like my right arm was gone.  Everytime I went to do something on the computer, I realized I needed the internet.  I hope to get this done before, pffzzt, we lose it again.

Even though I haven’t taught for many years, I haven’t lost my love of working with children.  And to combine that with my love of writing, well what a great job.  Recently I designed a power point presentation for students to teach them what writers do.  I made a Kindergarten program, 1-2 grade, 3-5 and 6-8.  Each class was progressively longer. 

I wanted them to understand that writers do more than write books.  They write articles and stories for newspapers and  magazines, work for advertising companies, write movies and songs, create those lovely textbooks they eagerly pull from their desks and lockers, and write the instruction manuals that come with things like – cell phones.  I shared my experiences with the lack of instruction in my cell phone book.  Created a few laughs.

I shared where writers get their ideas, where they write (mainly anywhere they want, but they did get the correct idea that my favorite place is anywhere outdoors), how a story is created and how books get published.  They learned what it takes to be a writer – being able to work alone (unless working on a newspaper or magazine staff), setting and keeping deadlines, how how to keep voices of characters from intruding all the time.

With the older children, I added technology.  I showed them how I clean up old pictures, use the clone tool to replace missing parts of pictures, how to take pictures from color to black and white and sharpen them.  While using the cloning took, I had one of those AHA moments.  What a great opportunity to share with them how magazines and newspapers make models look perfect and how that perfection is unrealistic.  How they can take the face of one person and put it on the body of another.  As the fourth-grade teacher said:  “You can’t believe anything you see anymore, can you?”  This was the favorite part of the presention – especially when I put the face of a woman on the body of a man.  I also showed them how they can take a not-so-great body (by industry standards, not mine) and change it to look “perfect.”  Since I was talking at a Catholic school, I was able to say that God made us they way He wants us to look so why change His perfection.”

The message must have reached at least some of them because while subbing for junior high at the same school on Thursday, I overheard some girls and boys talking about a picture in a magazine.  The comments were:  “I’ bet she doesn’t even really look like that.’  ‘Why did they have to make her look so thin?’  ‘I wouldn’t want to look like that.’    ‘I like the way I look.'”  I could have done cartwheels.  I just hope they remember the lesson.

The day after the presentations, I subbed at the same school.  The first grade teacher said that as soon as I had left the room, the kids took out their writing notebooks and started writing.  Yay!!!!  The second-grade class asked me to come and listen to them read the stories they wrote.  I wasn’t able to do that until I subbed last week.  They were so cute and the stories were amazingly good.  Kudos to their teacher.  It was funny how they were all nervous to read their stories before “A real writer.” 

They had a lot of questions – many very typical.  But one fourth-grader pulled one out that has never, ever been asked.  “Do you ever forget what you are writing about or forget who your characters are?”  Oh, man, did he hit the nail on the head. I laughed at that one and then showed them front page of the notebook I am using for my current fiction.  “See these names in the top corner?” I asked?  “I had to write them down because I keep forgetting what their names are – especially if it is a character that doesn’t appear that often.  I have also suddenly taken a name from a previous book and started using it in the middle of a current piece of work.”  Man, what a great question. Do I ever forget?  Man-oh-man, do I ever.   Makes me wonder if he’s been writing and has had the same problem.  Wish I had thought to ask. 

All-in-all, it was a great experience.  I need to tweek a few things – the kindergarteners were way more advanced than I gave them credit for – but I cherished each and every hug I received from them as I left the room.  I plan to design a brochure and promote this to schools – including high school where I figure I could use it in English and History classes, but will refrain from computer classes as they will probably know way more than I do about the technology aspects.

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