Art Influencing Life

It’s the last day of April.  That means that it’s the last day of the Student Slice of Life Challenge.  We’ve had a much larger group of students participating this year. In fact there have been 674 posts on our school’s blog site.  I wish there had been more than 970 comments. And I really wish there hadn’t been so many that were “I know, right?” kind of comments.  Still, last year we had 145 posts and 338 comments. We’re headed in the right direction.

This year the thing that struck me was something I had not expected.  I expected that some of the stories would be short. I expected that some might not fit my definition of a slice.  I expected that there would be slices that were very unedited. I expected that I would be surprised by the voices that emerged.  I expected that I would learn a lot more about the outer and inner lives of these slicers. What I did not expect was that the writing might actually impact the actions of those slicers.  

Here are some of the lines that began to stir my brain.  

I am going to run the 5k, which is 3.1 miles. You may say that you never expected me to run in a race like that, but frankly, I didn’t expect myself to either. I don’t consider myself the most athletic person, but this will be pretty fun. It IS pretty good exercise. Anyway, I’m kinda nervous.

After I run it, I will make a slice about the actual race!

That’s example one, a kid who doesn’t think of herself as much of an athlete, but suddenly she’s running in a 5-K race this April.  Here’s another.

First you should know I very scared of heights. We were one staircase in and I already wanted to back down. My mom told me if  I want to go down she’ll come with me but I decided I wanted to achieve something today.

Starting to see something?  A girl who’s afraid of heights, but suddenly she’s spinning up the spiral stairs to the top of a lighthouse.  Here’s another.

I wouldn’t pet those.” My dad said. “Of course he said that,” I thought to myself. When we got out of the car, my mom, Alex and I walked to the donkey. Two teenage girls were petting him. When they left, I started petting it. Out of all the years we’ve been going to St. John, I’ve never pet a donkey.  It’s mane was very dirty and I was afraid he was going to bite me but he was very nice. He was so cute too!

A kid on vacation who could have easily stayed in the car or taken her father’s advice, decides to approach a donkey.  A writer has to know how a donkey’s mane actually feels, after all. 

And then there was this:

But before our friend could answer, there was another loud boom.  Now we knew something bad was happening, not just a transistor or something.  Everyone started to rush down from the bleachers and the police told us to head down the street away from the race.  My mom picked me up and I was crying. My mom was holding Alex’s hand and told Alex to hold Ben’s hand and to NOT let go.  We were surrounded by people all rushing and yelling and the air had a really bad smell. We got separated from our friends and didn’t know where they went.

I had read a book aloud (a book I’d just received as a Slice of Life reward).  The book was about Bobbi Gibb, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. It was an inspiring story, a story of a triumph over prejudice.  I thought it would be uplifting. Instead, it had triggered a terrifying memory for one of my students.

She didn’t run away from it, though, she ran right into it, and wrote what she probably didn’t want to remember.  Her father had been running in the Boston Marathon in 2013. She had been in the bleachers at the finish line, when a bomb went off.  She wrote about the confusion, the chaos, the fear, and the eventual reunion.

As we entered this month, I expected these slicers to pay attention to the moments in their lives, looking for small stories in their day, and many did just that. What I didn’t expect from this writing challenge was that it might lead kids to do braver things.  As I sat at home, slightly envious as I read entries from their exotic April vacations, I became aware of something else:  The way their writing was influencing their lives. I began to sense  determination.  These writer were pushing themselves to live “slice-worthy” moments.

I didn’t see that coming.

14 thoughts on “Art Influencing Life

  1. Amazing! What a different view this time around. You should feel proud of these writers. You have given them a gift. I hope they continue to see themselves as writers and to act in braver ways because of it.

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  2. I like the way that you actually listen to your students and hear what they are trying to say. While reading student papers, many of us focus on the technicalities of writing, and we forget to pay attention to the message.

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  3. What an insightful slice about our writers and their desire to grow through living and becoming writers! Yay for paving the way for them this year and supporting them throughout! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. April was much better. I had a lot of trouble being a writer of slices and a teacher of slicers last year. Our challenge was the vacation week in April, though some of the kids got a lot of material from their adventures. Next year I want to spend some time coaching more about how to comment well. We should also look at other slices a bit more so they have a sense of what constitutes a story or a moment.

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  4. In addition to inspiring their actions, taking time to write about their “Slice-worthy” moments has given these kids a safe place to explore, explain and reflect on those choices and feelings. I hope they will keep on writing – even without this platform for publishing (and accountability!).

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  5. Your students have become writers! I am eager to see how this slicing experience impacts their future writing lives. I hope they keep writing. It sounds like it has meant something to them and changed the way they live their lives. And yes, I think we could work on the commenting at our school as well!

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  6. Incredible! This post – probably more than any other – encourages me to think about trying this next year. Wow – I just want to talk about this with someone… the way writing, knowing we will write, pushes us to try things, to create things in our physical lives that reflect things in our writerly lives. That’s really an incredible observation. Thanks for sharing this. Food for thought, indeed.

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  7. I’m fascinated by your take-away from this experience. As I read your post, I realized that I do that too! I think, “Oh, this would be a great slice!” and then I try something new, or listen harder, or watch closer, or step in instead of away. I’m so thankful that your astute observations of your students helped me to recognize this pattern in myself. I’ll be thinking more about this…

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