Yesterday I shared the day with twenty plus teachers from across this city at the Diastole center on Hospital Hill here in KC. We were there for a pre-summer institute meeting of the Greater Kansas City Writing Project. I’m participating in the GKCWP this summer and until yesterday I’d been hesitant to get very excited about it. While I’m in school for my certification to teach English at the high school level, I’m currently an early childhood teacher of children age three to five – not quite the same thing. I got accepted into the GKCWP as an early childhood teacher, and I had been fairly concerned that I wouldn’t be able to contribute to the group in any effective way. I’m happy to say that I no longer feel that way. In fact, I’m now more inspired and anxious to get started in June. So, part of the meeting yesterday was spent learning how we’ll be presenting a little workshop on a “stuck place” in our teaching. Dylan Carter, a creative writing instructor at Shawnee Mission West high school in Overland Park, Kansas, gave an example of his workshop from last summer. Dylan’s stuck place was getting his students to connect with their personal story – and how to inspire his students to dig deeper to find their stories. His students start the year by reading Beowulf (gahhhh! I get high blood pressure just thinking of teaching this book!) Dylan uses Beowulf’s quote, “The days of my youth have been filled with glory…” as a writing prompt for students. They were to start, “The days of my youth were filled with…” and just write.
And so, Dylan had us write our stories. There were some amazing ones, more than a few brought me to tears. I’m always astounded and inspired by great writers, by people who can express feelings through words, and I was not at all let down by this group. Chinua Achebe said, “To be human, one must have a story.” I’m still working on my story. But as I write I start to see the patterns of my “youth”, the things that come up over and over again in my writing. I will share when I finish, but I wonder, what filled the days of your youth?