Monday, October 27, 2014

The Wolves are in the Classroom

During the first year of my MFA, I enrolled in a class focused on creative writing in the secondary classroom. (I just can't get away from the field of education.) 

My English 621 class was taught by Jim (James) Brown, the author of The Los Angeles Diaries

As an educator I have been asked to write teaching philosophy essays countless times. While the exercise can be helpful (taking time to reflect always is), it had become tedious. Instead of writing a tradition essay, I decided to have a little fun. This is what I came up with. Professor Brown was kind enough to accept this instead of a traditional essay. 

Happy Reading.

Creative Writing in the Secondary Classroom "Essay"

The Wolves are in the Classroom

Standing before a crowd of twenty two, the teacher waited. Her breath was held in as she prepared to speak. She felt alone in the cold expanse of her classroom which, on essay writing days, felt like a cave invaded by angry wolves instead of the sanctuary of learning it was intended to be.

She cradled the pile of crisp white papers in her hand, protecting them against the ravages of the angry wolves her students occasionally transformed into.  

The papers stood out against her self imposed uniform, a deep black knee length dress and a long dark olive green sweater, like a flaming torch in an isolated cavern. Their light could not go unnoticed and soon her students would become aware of their scent, hungry not for the nourishment they could discover in the written word but for it's destruction.

After a pause, a quick moment in which she allowed herself to collect her thoughts, the teacher exhaled her breath. The constant rise and fall of her chest became the only obvious indicator of her need for peace. She was determined to meet the day’s challenge. Once again, and despite the lack of enthusiasm of her class of wolves, she would teach them how to write an essay.

The teenaged students before her were squeezed into chairs with their backpacks at their feet. Writing implements and electronic devices were in hand as they hunched over their desks eager for conversations with their friends, musical oblivion or an hour of shut eye, but not for the coming writing assignment. 

When the teacher cleared her throat for attention, almost every eye in the room met hers, silently acknowledging her right to speak. She tried not to imagine them as wolves circling a flame of light, prepared to turn rabid at the first hint of an essay.

The teacher forced herself to smile and prayed for the ability to keep the unlikely predators at bay. She clung to her torch of papers, waving it about in an attempt to distract them and hoped to somehow be able to inspire her students, to be able to explain the assignment in just the right way so that the twenty two teenagers would pause their wolverine inclinations for a moment and make a sincere attempt to write ... something, anything. 

After the directions left her mouth, the prompt followed by words of encouragement and support, the teacher sucked in her breath and began passing out the crisp pages that held the prompt in written form. Immediately, twenty two heads slumped in defeat and dejection, calling out complaints against the teacher for daring to assign an essay and assurances that now they would fail and it would be all her fault.

But the teacher stood her ground. She had to, it was her job. She would rather be teaching her students how to write a poem or a short story, but that was not why she was placed in this cavern of teenagers. 

She was hired to tame the wolves enough that they could produce a sufficiently organized 5 paragraph essay. A literary composition native to the middle and secondary classroom that was rarely seen in the rest of the natural world, but which remained the foundational genre upon which her wolves's writing ability was assessed. 

So, the teacher began frantically searching the depths of her mind for ways to make writing as exciting to twenty two teenagers as it was to the poor teacher who faced them every day. 

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