Here’s my favorite piece from the 2011 UIWP Young Writers Camp Writing Marathon. Thanks to all my students for their warm feedback!
“Army at 18”
Yossi ripped the challah apart with his bare hands, taking the heart of the bread out from its gut and tossing it on Tamir’s plate. Tamir gnashed at it with his little white teeth before the prayer and got up on his chair, walked over the table, and stepped onto my legs like they were nothing but old couch cushions. He rolled the rest of his bread into a ball, pelted the rock at his sister’s head, and dove under the table, grabbing at our ankles. “He will learn in 10 years that men cannot play,” Yossi said as he chomped into his chicken. “For now he is a boy.”
Welcome writers! My name is Rachel Moyer and I teach freshmen and sophomore English at UHS. I’m really excited to be here and spend this week working with you!
I wrote this piece during the writing marathon, which was completely invigorating and surprising. Along the way I ran into an ex-boyfriend, which was awkward and nice. It was fine.
The piece is below but what I really want to say is that I loved the writing marathon. I missed it today. I didn’t think it was going to be so refreshing but it was. I joke about how being in the basement all summer is wearing on me, but it’s really the confines of any classroom that are draining. We all need air, time and space to breathe. I can’t wait to do this with my students, who are aching to get out of their seats, who need that air so much.
Of course that would happen…
Before we walked into the art building I knew I’d see him. The only other times I’ve seen him I’ve had crazy hair and I’ve been as drippy and pasty as I am. And I’ve been wearing embarrassing, bright running shorts like these. He shouldn’t mind. He’s seen me worse. But still, why couldn’t it be when I have brushed hair and regular clothes on?
We do the thing where he sits down and we talk about this and that and pretend like we still know each other even though it’s been years and we don’t at all. I wish we didn’t have to. I wish I could see him from across the room and just give him a really sincere wave, or a really deep nod, that just says it all. That says – hey, I hope you’re happy now. I used to not hope that but now I do because I’m more mature. Yeah, a hell of lot more mature. And awesome. And modest.
I hope you’re healthy and still take pictures of things and get with someone you care about regularly. I’m better now but I don’t want to get into all that. I think if we sat down we’d realize that we have nothing in common anymore, nothing but stale pleasantries and memories that are starting to make me feel old because it’s been that long.
I want to wave and for the wave to say, I’m wearing skunky sandals but I’m feeling fine. Never better. See you around.
Please comment on this post with a hook or mini-lesson you can use in your classroom this year that empowers your students with civic knowledge. Remember, I’m defining civic knowledge as knowledge about how power works.
Include a link to something your students should read or watch and a brief explanation/introduction of that piece using kid-friendly language that gets at how this piece helps us understand how power works. I encourage you to find/use materials with a local focus so that your students can learn about how power works in our community.
A retrospective feature piece I wrote for LaDonna’s demonstration. Check it:
9/11 shapes ‘people in their changing society’ course
People in Their Changing Society was the social studies class that all the slacker sophomores took because you could tune out and still pass. Name a Latin American country. Is the US capitalist or communist? I wasn’t a slacker but was the kind of freshman who wanted to impress them, get their attention, by being mind-blowingly philosophical and hilarious (read: obnoxious) in class.
We were studying major world religions that week and I had just, aptly I thought, pointed out how we were actually studying major monotheistic world religions, and shouldn’t we be studying Hinduism and what qualifies a religion as major anyway? I was on a roll. And then the announcements came on over the intercom.
Our vice principal explained that there had been an attack in New York City. My teacher clicked on the news right in time for us to see the second tower fall. And keep falling.
I remember the fire from that crash. I remember billowing smoke and ashes raining like snow. I remember people jumping out of windows. I don’t remember the bell for second hour ringing but I do remember standing in the hall, dazed, not sure how I got there.
Mostly I remember a boy I thought I liked telling me I was a pretty crier and telling him, aptly I thought, to f— off.
This is in response to Caleb’s demonstration and his understanding (people’s success is determined by external factors and individual decision-making) and essential question (what responsibility does society have to people in Yolanda’s positions?)
Society’s obligation to people in Yolanda’s position is to mitigate the effects of eternal factors so that they don’t dictate and limit individuals’ abilities to even make decisions. The structures of power that are in place (eternal factors) restrict people’s options and ability to make decisions, so the best thing society can do is to give options, give decision-making back to people. Eternal factors in this story are bigger than Yolanda or even her mother – these are systems of power that systematically oppress and continue to disadvantage the disadvantaged. These factors make it so people like Yolanda and her mother are left with few or no options to survive in healthy, stable, whole ways.
-by Rachel and Laura
My writing process is slow, meditative, personal, and messy. Check out my pensive/distracted/loosely metaphorical writing process video here: