Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Guest Blogger Meddie Finnegan on Writing in 6/7

smell like a horse named Sonny. I was teaching a lesson on sensory imagery and was with Matt-the-athlete and quiet Jayne who speaks two languages, petting a horse. Picture an athlete, quiet girl and a teacher, burying our faces into Sonny's mane trying to capture the smell. Dusky? Musty? Sweet? He licked our hands and we touched the soft part of his muzzle.

Sami and I sat in the bunny hutch and held two small bunnies, letting them breathe into our ears as if they were telling us their little bunny secrets. Their tiny bunny hearts beat under our hands. Sami giggled as fur flew up into the fall air, illuminated by the sun.

Tori and I sat in a land-locked canoe listening to crows caw and call and feeling the sun warm our faces, while Lily watched little children try to walk in a straight line. They didn't; they wobbled and weaved bouncing off of each other like bumper cars.

Emma perched in the Chicken Tree, hidden from the world, all but her long legs dangling from the branches. She picked pine needles and listened to the laughter of the preschoolers nearby. Olivia sat in the 4/5 commons, feeling awkward sitting in a space she's just left, barely fitting her long legs under shorter tables.

Eli sat on the tire swing capturing the warmth of rubber from the sun; he noticed the sound of leaves as they spiraled in the wind. Should he turn back to the laptop on the picnic table and get writing? Or should he linger on the swing for just one more moment...

Sixth and 7th graders were wrapped up with the ghosts of childhood past, knowing that the sweet spot of being a child is soon gone, replaced with the freedom and responsibility of adolescence. This makes them melancholy. This makes them loud. This makes them wise. And they wrote about it.

Some kids cried as they wrote. Others just noticed nature. Others just sat with themselves; 15 minutes of being still is good for any soul. Writers write as they live their lives. Only a fraction of what they compose in their heads actually finds its way to print. This was part of the day's lesson.

I wonder if I teach the right way. "Will they be prepared?" I ask myself.  Will horses, canoes, chicken trees and bunnies develop these children into the writers and thinkers we hope to cultivate? This is what I ask myself every single day.

And my answer is always yes. They will. For to write, to write anything, you must know yourself, where you came from and where you are going.

Notice. Think. Breathe. Write.
By Meddie Finnegan, Middle Years English Teacher

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Diary of an Angst-Ridden Kid, Part 2

I promise you there will not be a part three; I'm a little too free with the expletives in the other entries, unlike kids today.

Just to show you I wasn't a puddle EVERY day, I give you this. I had just moved from New Jersey to Maryland, and there was some new optimism brewing. At least a little bit. 

The time of day was really important to me for some reason.  

One would not have guessed that being an English major was in my future, judging from how poorly I did in eighth grade Reading. As you can see, I cared more about that old popularity thing than I did about my schoolwork. Again, this is atypical of today's eighth graders.

Oh my, one of the most humiliating moments of my life. I'll elaborate in a moment.

So I was running props for a performance of "The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds." My latest crush, Erin, was in the front row. The lights dimmed to near-black. My task was to remove the tray of marigolds from a table and get off the stage in a matter of seconds. Simple. I was keenly aware of where Erin was sitting, and my thoughts--and eyes--were anywhere but on the box of dirt in my hands. Having retrieved the box successfully, I then turned and somehow high-stepped onto the chenille swivel-chair behind me. The world, and the chair, spun perilously. The next thing I knew, I was lying prone, having achieved a full-on faceplant, the flavor of topsoil on my tongue, fertilizer fresh on my face. And Erin four feet away. I could hear her cackle above the gasps and concerned chatter. I don't remember how I got off-stage.

And then came high school. I remember feeling absurdly out of place, a child of a teacher and a preacher among Baltimore's Quaker elite. My mom got a job teaching English at Friends School, I attended practically for free, and thus began my long career in independent schools.

As you will see below, I eventually recovered fully from my former affliction of abject insecurity. And if you believe that, I have a bridge over the Chattahoochee I can sell you.

So my stroll down middle school memory lane ends here. Thanks for coming with me.

Here's to all the young adolescents, past, present, and future, who somehow endure the heartaches of growing up. And here's to the adults in their lives, parents, friends, and teachers, whose love brings them through.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Youthful Tendency Disorder

I certainly was afflicted with this condition when I was a kid. In fact, I think all kids at High Meadows are. What a pity...

[My wife tells me that people don't always get my humor. Just to be clear, this is satire : ).]