Every summer I teach writing to children at the St. Florian Center Leadership Development Camp for Youth. It is an amazing program, founded and coordinated by amazing (mostly) African American firefighters who care deeply about kids--and do something about it. I've been teaching writing to people of all ages for nearly forty years and one of the things I love most about it is how, now and then, I get totally blown away by something written by an absolute novice. This happened Monday with the St. Florian kids.
The funny thing was, we were disorganized that morning, mixed up about what the kids had and hadn't already done. Turned out, at least some of them had done everything we had in mind to do with them. On the spur of the moment, I'd grabbed a bunch of art postcards and taken them with me--just in case. So we handed them out to the kids in a random manner and put them to work. Here's some writing that came from the exercise, my favorite being "Hovering Angels" by Janai. She wrote this on her own, with no help from anyone. It makes the hair on my neck stand up.
I wish I could be her hovering angel in real life, take care of her and keep her gorgeous voice strong and safe. I wish I could be a hovering angel for them all.
Angel, angel, that’s what I am. A sweet darling in air floating mode. I am sweet as a baby. Innocent. I’m also not innocent sometimes. I have a gold wing and a black wing. The gold is for strong and black is weak. I’m strong. I have a void in my life. My daddy took it. I don’t try to fill the void. I work around it. My life is a triangle. I’m in the center. The first tip is for my god, the second tip is for my daddy, the third is my mom. It hurts in the center because you have to keep from turning. But when I look in the mirror I feel strong again.
There once was swavey trees going with the wind, with blue and orange ground and yellow, some blue and some red skies. The trees look like big and leafy hula dancers. The grass looks like hay. Suddenly the bright and shiny sun started to rise. A small bird came past with a blast. All you could see were baby birds chirping. If I went to Olive Orchard then I would lay on the grass going up on the trees or build me a fort made out of the grass, sticks and tree branches. I may even build me lots of homes for either pets or for people to look around.
Once upon a time there was a cat and he was yellow. He’s looking at the flying people. There is a boy and he is on a cat flying up in the air. He saw people on the ground. There’s two boys with two faces and they’re on the news. It told about what happened to the people on the ground by the Eiffel Tower. The can remembered something from when he was a baby. It was a train. He was dizzy. He’s like Humpty Dumpty on a wall. If I went in that place I would be flying on a kite and I would be a cat, too.
By Jordan J
I’m a man, a flat clock man, with flat clocks around me and with a flat ocean and flat mountains around me and, well, everything is flat in this city. There is a tree that’s not flat. Would you look at that! I’m a flat clock man dancing. I’m dancing like Michael Jackson with gold and silver and shiny white teeth. I’m dancing to their beat.
Once upon a time there was a girl that had a volcano on her head. Her name was Voltina. She went to the park and when she was there she saw her friends and got mad at them. So her volcano erupted. There was lava everywhere, so the park was closed.
Orange earrings shooting across the air, if anyone saw it they have to prepare. Tree cut into halfs, time clocks to make children laugh and laugh. Time is going faster by heat, faster than anyone can ever beat. Dead fish in the water, people see it and never bother. Little blocks to step and not fall, mountains big and tall. Trees drowning in water, there they go, farther and farther.