Session 2: Finding Your Story

We opened our second session with one of my favorite youth reporting pieces: Overcoming the Insult of 'Acting White' by Elizabeth Zalanga, produced by Minnesota Public Radio's Young Reporters series. I like this story so much because it does two things: 1) it's a great example of identity-based storytelling, and 2) at the end of her story she interviews one of her teachers about the importance of talking about sometimes uncomfortable social issues. Here's an excerpt: 

"It wasn't until my senior year in high school that I first heard race addressed in the classroom. My English teacher, Josh Hirman, created a safe environment for students to discuss this complex and sometimes uncomfortable subject. I was one of several students who opened up in class about my experiences. Mr. Hirman said this had a snowball effect on the class.
'As soon as students see that we've carved out a safe space to talk about race, I feel it's contagious and most students begin to let their guard down to freely kind of explore the subject of race in our society," he said.'" 

Because Making Waves is all about "letting our guards down" and "freely exploring" social issues like race, class, gender and ability, listening to this story is awesome on multiple levels.  It really gets at exactly what we're all about. Except: at the end of Elizabeth's story, she wraps it all up with a bow on top. The conflict is completely resolved. We told our reporters they don't have to do that. They can be messier, more nuanced, if that's how the story shakes out. 

We then had our reporters do a ten minute free write answering this question: What part of your identity is most important to you and why? A free write is a stream of consciousness exercise where you write down whatever is in your heard, as it comes, without stopping or crossing anything out. After they finished we discussed their writing, and then moved into our lesson on how to find your story. During the lesson we discussed the chapter they read from Out on the Wire, which we all just love. We talked about going after stories that interest you, the difference between a topic and a story, framing your story (making it universal), and crafting a focus sentence. 

After our discussion we introduced our This I Believe project. We didn't have our students write and record This I Believe essays last semester, although some of them had done it for another class, so this is our first time. We explained the history of This I Believe, and listened to two TIB essays: The Power to Forget, which was written by a man from Columbia, MO, and one of my all-time favorite essays, Be Cool to the Pizza Delivery Dude

We wrapped up our session with an activity from the This I Believe High School Curriculum. We gave the students a list of statements like "Words hurt" and "Killing people is wrong." Then, on their own, each student had to go down the list and mark if they agreed or disagreed with the statement. Then the students compared lists and chose one statement they had all agreed with. Then each student had to share a true story that helped explain why they chose to agree with that statement. It was a really cool activity. 

For homework this week, our students are listening to some of the This I Believe essays RBHS students recorded last year. They're also doing a 10-minute free write on something they believe in, following one of several prompts we gave them. For additional listening this week, we recommended The Source of Creativity from The TED Radio Hour and Faith and Love Between the Lines from The Moth.