Sunday, September 15, 2013
NPR.org offers an enriching program on its website called "This I Believe," a collection of short personal narratives in which authors of all ages share memories associated with poignant, often life-changing realizations. I have purchased one of the This I Believe book collections for use with students as writing prompts. Most of the essays elicit thoughtful analyses and essay-style responses, followed by introspection, and finally culminating in the students' own short memoirs about what they believe, as a result of the events they recall. I would like to share a touching narrative by a seventh-grade student (names have been changed):
THIS I BELIEVE
I believe that everyone needs friends.
When I was in 5th grade, I was friends with the popular girls. One person had warned me to stay away from the popular girls. I guess I forgot that part at the time.
I heard that the supposed “leader” of the popular group was Anna. I had walked up to Anna, confronted her, and told her, “My name is Kay. Could we be friends?”
After a month or so, I had been accepted into her clique. She treated me like her other minions, bossing us around and making rude jokes about us in front of our faces. Every time I had that feeling to just punch her in the face, I told myself, “Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer.”
One day, Anna left her jacket at school. Cassie, one of Anna's friends, offered to bring Anna’s jacket to her house, since they lived near each other. When we came back to school the next day, Cassie had forgotten to give Anna her jacket. We learned that day that Anna disliked Cassie a lot. She scolded me, telling me that Cassie was not the right person to give her jacket to, telling me that it was my fault. Her other followers didn’t want to be in trouble with Anna, so they nodded in agreement.
I stood up for myself and I told Anna to quit it. “It wasn’t my fault. It’s your fault for leaving your jacket at school.” At the end of the day, I went to the afterschool program. Anna and her clique were there too.
They grouped up on me and told me all the bad things about me. “You’re ugly.” “You wear glasses.” “You’re mean and pushy.” They beat me up with their words.... Finally, when Anna came to finish me off, she told me it was my fault. I had screwed up. I was the reason everything went wrong in life. It was always my fault. I had been crying for about an hour, and her words made me cry even more. The thing that scarred me was when I leaned forward to hug her, but she backed away like I was a disgusting alien. The pain of being rejected, beaten up, and unwanted left me silent for many months. I didn’t speak at school unless I was called on. I ate by myself at lunch time and shot baskets alone at recess.
The one person who came and rescued me from my prison of torture changed my life. I will always remember Ron. One day, I was shooting hoops at the afterschool program, and Ron came over to me and asked me to play with him. I said, “Won’t your friends miss you?”
He replied, “Nah. They don’t notice me anyways.”
When Ron said he would leave his friends just to play hoops with me, it really changed me and turned me around. He was the only one I sat next to at lunch. He always smiled at my sarcastic comments, and laughed when I told a punch line wrong.
All of these people changed my life, and they helped me to strengthen my mind.
My student showed obvious introspective ability in her memoir, and pride in sharing it with me. When a writing lesson can do "double-duty," it truly creates memorable words.