Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Slice of Life- A reminder that sensitivity matters
Every Tuesday, the writing community of Two Writing Teachers hosts Slice of Life. All are welcome to participate by linking up posts or commenting on other participants.
Last week I wrote about some of the quotes I loved from my weekend in Atlanta at the NCTE conference. This week, I am writing about some of the words Margarita Engle shared during her powerful presentation about voice in nonfiction writing. Margarita is a Cuban-American novelist and poet, and her work has won many awards.
When Margarita spoke at NCTE, she talked of her concern for many children in the United States who are living in fear of deportation. Granted, we don't know what the policies will be regarding refugees, immigrants, and deportation. We are all in a wait and see mode as to what the new administration will do in 2017. However, trouble is easy to borrow, especially when the stakes are high. For families who believe they may have to leave this country, the stakes are extremely high. Margarita's words made me realize what great fear and anxiety many families in our country are experiencing about their future.
Margarita had been excited to try out a writing prompt where she would ask children to think of an important memory, and then write that memory in present tense. As she described the concept, I was excited to think about trying it out. But then, she stated that she would not include this exercise in her presentations because of the potential danger it could pose for children and their families. Truly, my heart pounded when she said this, partially because I don't want to believe that any child in our country should live with this kind of fear, and partially because in my naivete, I hadn't thought about it myself, and I am the coordinator of our writing program.
I work in a relatively homogeneous school system, and I am embarrassed to admit that I hadn't thought about how some of our students' fears could impact their academic lives, especially in writing. In our narrative units, we encourage students to generate stories by thinking of emotional times in their lives. We ask them to write about important memories, people, and places. We ask them to provide windows into their lives. What if these windows are dangerous for our students? And even if they are not dangerous, what if our children or their families perceive that they could be?
More than any other time I can remember, this is a time for extreme empathy, cultural awareness, and sensitivity. I am grateful for Margarita's powerful words, as they reminded me to pay more attention, to be more vigilant, and to spread more kindness wherever I can.