Faint lights shined on the Indy Reads stage as the Saint Florian CASH Club high schoolers performed their spoken word writings; they worked hard all summer for this moment.
For the past two summers, I have interned with the Indiana Writer’s Center as an intern with the Saint Florian CASH Club high schoolers. I remember my first day ever working with them, it was June of 2016, when I walked in the room I could feel their cold stares falling upon me. I could only imagine they were thinking,
“Who is this girl?”
“Oh great… another teacher who’s going to make me write.”
“Why should I trust her?”
I don’t blame them though. I was a stranger coming into their summer camp with the intention of having them write and share their memories. I would’ve felt the same way if I were in their position, but I knew that there had to be something I could do to earn their trust. So, that first day when the prompts were given to them, I decided to write along with them. I wrote about an intimate moment of my own life and allowed myself to be vulnerable. I did this without the intention of sharing, but once it came time for author’s chair, their eyes once again fell on me.
“Miss Eileen, let’s hear what you wrote.”
I paused for a moment and took a deep breath to reassure myself.
“Yes, of course.”
The prompt I chose was, “You asked me why I’m mad, so let me tell you why.” As I began reading my response about my experience being an intimate partner violence survivor, I could see their icy exteriors and cold stares fading. I could see them looking at me as someone they could trust, and from that moment on they trusted me too.
Day by day, my students continued digging deeper into their memories, except for one student.
“Miss Eileen, I HATE writing and there is no way that I will be getting up to share my story in front of people.”
I could see so much potential in her, but I didn’t want to just be another pushy teacher who forces her to write. So, session after session I worked with her to find something that she was interested in writing about.
Fast forward to July 2017 on the day of the spoken word performance for my students. Before the performance started, one of my students came up to me—the same one who told me she hated writing the previous summer.
“Miss Eileen, I just wanted to say thank you. Because of you I no longer hate writing and I’m going to share some of my writing on stage today.”
That was the moment when I realized how important my work has been with my students over the course of two summers. That’s when it truly hit me that my work has impacted others’ lives. Not only did I get her to no longer hate writing, but also I allowed her to learn for herself without being pushed to do things and instead encouraged. I am so thankful for my experiences working with my students over the past two summers.
Written by Eileen Porzuczek