Scribe Stories From the Wren’s Nest:
What do you think when you see an empty classroom? The first day of school, summer break, COVID-19? Before 2020, we didn’t know this term, COVID-19. We would never have guessed our kids would one week go from classrooms to virtual learning, or that some kids in America would stop learning altogether because they didn’t have access to computers and WIFI. This isn’t a gloom and doom message, however. This is a celebration of what you can do even with an empty classroom. There are still opportunities out there to teach, to learn, and to be part of your community. So, when you look upon this apparently “empty” classroom, do you see the class empty or the class full?
Earlier in the year I signed up to be a mentor with The Wren’s Nest Scribes Program which is a middle school writing program that partners with KIPP STRIVE Academy to provide one-on-one mentoring between writing professionals and students. The idea is that we would meet once per week for an hour to teach the students how to write creative fiction. There was a plethora of different writers that volunteered from poets, script writers, obituary writers, to teachers. The kids were thrilled. This was the eleventh year of the Scribes Program and some of volunteers that volunteered this year went through the same writing program when they were kids. That tells you how successful and important the program has been.
Each year the students are given a new theme to write about and the stories are published in a book which debuts at the Decatur Book Festival during Labor Day weekend, EXCEPT for this year. This year, the stories are being published online on the Wren’s Nest website. I’ve gained a lot throughout my writing career from my mentors; it was time I gave back some of that karma. BUT, halfway through due to COVID-19, we stopped our hour long weekly meetings and went virtual. There are many great things about working online, but the one-on-one experience and getting to know the kids, about their lives, what inspires them, seemed to be lost virtually. They weren’t used to working via email and/or Google Docs. Some did not complete their stories for one reason or another. It was challenging to keep our scribes/mentees focused and writing when school had become so discombobulated; the world had become discombobulated. You can hardly blame them, especially with a world-wide pandemic hitting and school as they knew it ending, and everyone going into quarantine. School was already out when we all witnessed the senseless murders of African-Americans, and then the protests and riots broke out. The kids we worked with are predominantly African American. I wonder what they are thinking, how they are doing, and what they are doing with themselves this summer. I wonder what they will write in 2021.
Our theme for 2020 was “Twenty Years into the Future,” and most of the kids chose to write about apocalyptic settings. The stories tended to be a little darker than I imagined when I initially volunteered, but they are not without humor. The title of one story is called “Cat-Pocalypse.” I worked with a lovely young lady named Kaydance who envisioned a world where humans could no longer go outside due to high temperatures from global warming. The hiccup was that all the buildings were controlled by major corporations such as Google, Apple, Facebook, or Amazon and they were randomly starting to blow up. She left it at “To Be Continued.” Some of the other kids wrote for a few more weeks, but ended up stopping mid-story, leaving off with “to be continued” like Kaydance did. That was fine. That is just fine, because these kids and the volunteers are definitely class full type of people. They stayed the course when it was hard. Staying inspired to write, writing weekly, and sometimes writing at all is hard for WRITERS much less middle school kids who are writing on their own accord. It wasn’t a homework assignment. It was entirely extracurricular. The volunteers could have stopped, too, or not volunteered in the first place. I’m proud of these kids for continuing to write their stories during this challenging moment in history. I’m proud to have been a part of their creative world and I’m also proud of the other writers who showed up and stayed the course.
Please take the time to read and share these stories with others. The kids and volunteers worked very, very hard. The next posting of Scribe Stories will be June 26th, July 17th, August 7th, and August 28th with all of the stories be reposted on September 4th, the eve of the Decatur Book Festival.
Link to read Scribe Stories: https://wrensnest.org/scribes-spring-2020/
Future Mentor Opportunities: If you are interested in being part of the Wren’s Nest Scribe Program next year, please contact Jim Auchmutey at firstname.lastname@example.org.