Today my fingerprints were documented at the courthouse. (So much for all those nefarious crimes I was going to commit.) It was a step to continue volunteering down at the local juvenile detention center, where I’m been working with an organization called The Beat Within to practice creative writing with the students.
We teach a mini lesson, then give out prompts. The kids can write on the prompts or write whatever they want, and they don’t even have to turn it in to us if they don’t want to. They just need to take some time to express their thoughts on paper. They’re artists once we can convince them to press that pencil to the paper, so far creating nonfiction, essays, fiction, poetry, and raps. Some are all for it, others take a bit of coaxing. Jolly Ranchers are a great reward. If they do give it to us, we type it up and give some feedback, we communicate with them on a personal level, tell them what we enjoyed in their writing, and give some technical advice.
We also submit, when they’d like us to, their work to The Beat Within magazine, which we will then print out for them. So far, we don’t have enough money to print many copies out, but we’ll work on that. This magazine is a chance to prove to the students that they’ve been heard. Someone does listen to what you say. You matter.
I’ve been nervous. I have a lot to learn about teaching, but each week I get a little bit of feedback on how to improve. I have excellent role models to look up to and I’m working to get a feel for how to communicate with the kids. They see through bullshit. You can’t go in there and fake it for an hour. This is refreshing because I fake it a lot.
There are unique challenges for all of us in the room. We can bond together because of these challenges and make something out of it. I’m lucky. This program reminds me how fortunate I am. I think that’s something we all need to keep in mind.