By Marcel Hernandez
Founder, Be About Change
We recently had the opportunity to visit Glencliff High School with two others: Be About Change Board Member, Alicia Hernandez and longtime friend and mentor, James Floyd. We conducted a writing workshop for a class of Juniors in English III. I was eager to introduce James, who led the workshop, because as a student of his, I knew they would benefit from what he would be sharing and teaching.
After the introduction, James started with his poem, “Poets Are Crazy” and then assigned the students a writing exercise, wherein they could write a short story – fiction or nonfiction. Then it was time for lunch…
…after lunch the students made their way back to their seats, James began with a lesson that discussed how over time, different ideas are introduced into society that seem crazy. Attempting to disallow the students’ fatigue from lunch to set in, he polled the class as to why this is. Ultimately, he talked about how society’s views on what is acceptable expands to accept and adopt these new, “crazy” ideas.
James then read a short story, emphasizing words that were descriptive and appealing to the five senses, and calling students’ attention to this. As I observed from the back, I was impressed by the level attention they gave him, which was obvious by their reactions to his reading. Then came the second writing exercise where he asked them to implement these new concepts.
Finally, three students shared what they had written – and here is where the value of this day became apparent – by leading this workshop, James facilitated giving these students a voice, and not only was this voice powerful, it was raw and honest. One student talked about the anguish of lost love, another read a fictional depiction about a situation that was personal to her, and another student wrote poetically about the confusion and bittersweet moments in life.
As we concluded, I invited students to continue writing, and acknowledged the vulnerability in the stories we heard from students, stressing the importance of that vulnerability and of being honest to oneself in one’s art. At the end of the class, one of the students that read aloud handed us a handwritten note.
Thank you, Glencliff Colts, for your time, for an incredible experience, for sharing your writing with us, and for teaching us about ourselves.
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