Well, it’s official – the launch is complete! On Friday, students were introduced to The Story Project and now they’re just as in the know as you are.
We had a bit of an inauspicious start. Friday morning was snowy, and when my first period seniors strolled in the door, my excitement was hampered a little by the question, “So, if people don’t come to class, can we just do nothing?”
Oof. That’ll take the wind right out of your sails.
No need to worry, though – the children did, in fact, show up, and we didn’t “do nothing.”
I wanted to make sure that when I introduced The Story Project that the kids would have the same context for the project that I did – I saw a problem with voice, and I wanted to correct it. So, to get them to that place, I asked them to write down the title of every novel that they read as an assigned text in high school. After a couple of minutes of struggling and questions like, “Wait, what was that one with the mouse?” (Flowers for Algernon; the one with the mouse is Flowers for Algernon), students had fairly comprehensive lists. Then, we went through that list and put down the authors of each of those texts. Shakespeare made things easy for them by showing up so many times, and they remembered some other big names (F. Scott Fitzgerald, Charles Dickens, and even Homer!) on their own. Finally, we tried to remember who the main characters of all of those texts were. Again, they swept the Shakespeare categories, and characters like Scout and Jem Finch came right back to them.
That’s when we started to recognize the problem – the authors on our lists were overwhelmingly white (with the exception of Jean Rhys, who they read this year) and male. Also, almost every single person on the list was dead. The same was true for the characters – it was the students, even before myself, who recognized that any character of color was used in his/her text as a tool for discussing racism.
So I asked them another question – tell me three things you’re passionate about. I asked them what excites them, what keeps them up at night, what worries them. This list was actually the most difficult for them to create (undoubtedly that was the most distressing part of this experience), and many of them came up with things like “friends” or “family” – fair things for them to spend their time thinking about, but not necessarily what I was looking for.
So I took a different angle – if white men have the market cornered on print media, what can they do about it? We talked about viral videos, and Instagram posts, and Facebook pages. They realized, pretty quickly, that digital media belongs to them. They realized, too, that not only do they have things they wan tot say, but that they also have ways of saying them.
That’s when I handed out the assignment, and that’s when I showed them this blog (hey guys!) and my Twitter page. In my second class of seniors, I actually got a spontaneous round of applause to honor my achievement of having 128 (!!) followers. While the applause was thrilling, the best part of the day was three hours later, when one of my students tracked me down in the hallway to tell me how excited she was, and how she planned to do her project about…well, I’ll let her tell you. Because they’re here now, and the countdown is on for the student takeover of this blog!
I, for one, can’t wait!