Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Trying Something New In A Collaborative Workshop Today (Big Feet & All)

It's hard to believe that much is at the summit of CWP-Fairfield and things are coming to a close as quickly as they began. Today, teachers in Argument Academy (College Ready Writers Program) and youth in Project Citizen: Flying Lessons from the Prose) are getting together for a workshop on argumentation and to offer feedback on student writing composed over the last couple of weeks. Tying in Native American art on exhibit this fall at the University and a short story from Flying Lessons & Other Stories by Tim Tingle seemed to be a good way to go.

Tingle's story is fun and I'm not sure I understand it with 100% of my being, but that's the way I read everything. "Chocktaw Big Foot, Midnight in the Mountains" is one of many stories in Ellen Oh's edited collection from the We Need Diverse Books movement. My argument this summer has been we need diverse classrooms and experiences, as well.

Project Citizen set out to pluralistically blend youth cultures as they spent time discussing voice, writing for empowerment, and action.

Tingle tells the story of uncle Kenneth the storyteller. He gathers children to embellish his own tail of Naloosha Chitto, a big-foot creature with origins to the narrative. It is also a story of the Chukmas, elf-like creatures who pester humans with their mischievous smallness. I love the universality of the tale, but also the positioning of who tells a story, whose version is told, and how storytelling is multicultural.

As I put together a slide about Big Foot in my life, I remembered how my father and our Utica, New York neighbors used to share a story about a hairy beast who lived behind our houses. I forgot the name so texted my sister and just as I wanted to time it into the slide she responded, HARRY POOCUS! And I remembered. The creature used to keep us up and night and we always worried he'd take us away if we were too naughty.

In truth, Tingle's story parallels the larger point we are trying to make with kids: Tell your story, before someone tells it for you. For teachers, we're trying to make the argument that everything is an argument. Thinking intelligently is a mindset of questioning everything and positioning one's opinions in believe systems, facts, and truths (that may or not be told in our schools).

It's mid-week and I'm exhausted (especially after the magic of the last few weeks), but I'm really excited about this workshop. There's nothing better than united student and teachers on equal playing grounds during the summer!

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