A reminder that students can still thrive in uncertain times
Don’t underestimate your students when it comes to distance learning. Some of them might surprise you and take your assignment to new heights, as my senior student Savannah B. did with her journal (shown in photos).
Savannah took my Life in the Time of Corona journal assignment and made it her own. She ditched the laptop and wrote it on brown kraft paper, burned the edges to give it an antique look, and added stains to age it some more. She even glued a swatch of toilet paper to the cover!
In short, it’s unexpected, innovative and has an anachronistic time-travel vibe.
I was intrigued with Savannah’s motivation and process, so I asked her a few questions (via the Remind app) about her journaling experience:
Q: What prompted you to get so creative with your journal?
A: I had started doing it on a Google doc and to be completely honest, that was very boring to me. Who would want to read that? I had a hard time concentrating on it and actually wanting to do it and I remembered I had created something similar for an assignment at my old school and so I took that idea and created something new with it. I wanted to hook people in.
Q: Why did you decide to give it a historical tone?
A: I was definitely going for the ancient effect. I figured it would give it more character.
Q: Your journal almost sounds imaginary due to its historical look and the word choices you made. Was any part of it made up?
A: Everything, or almost everything, in it was true. For example, I really did have a family member that got tested for COVID-19 and it was scary. Thankfully, the tests were negative though.
I am convinced that someday Savannah’s journal will be a treasured record of her life during this historic global event. It will also be an expression of her creative mind and aspirations as she heads off to college in the fall.
I’m sure you have students like Savannah. Y’know, those students who enjoy what you teach (for the most part, right?!) and thrive with projects that get them away from the notebook or keyboard for a while. Savannah is one of those students who saw the potential in doing some extra time with this project.
Here’s what the assignment initially asked students to do:
“Over the next week, keep a journal of your activities, thoughts, and experiences in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak. Here are some ideas:
- Write about what you do know about the virus.
- Write about what you don’t know.
- Is it business as usual? (Describe business as usual… your normal routine.)
- Are you going out? Where?
- What have you cancelled?
- How has COVID-19 affected your life so far?
- Have you tried to shop for supplies in case of a lockdown? How did that go?
- Do you know what to do if we are restricted?
- Write about the contradictions or confusion that exists in the media.
- Reflect on the memes that seem to be multiplying faster than the virus itself.
- What news stories have you heard, read, or watched?
- Has anything or anyone inspired you in the midst of the coronavirus?
- In short, write about whatever you want to write about as it relates to the pandemic.”
For a link to this assignment sheet that you can adjust to fit your needs, click here.
It’s important for kids to be writing about their lives right now. Years into the future, we will need to hear their stories and it’s always more valuable when those stories are written down as they are happening… and not in retrospect.
“…for much of history, kids got left out of most storytelling. Which means that what we know about the children of the past are mostly the recollections of adults, trying to reach back in time, or to guess about the thoughts and feelings of the children around them. But of course, most grownups see the world differently from kids, and that is why it’s so important that you record your voice. Tell your story. So that in ten or twenty or a hundred or a thousand years, people will be able to look back and know what it was like in the Pandemic of 2020, for someone like you. What it was really like.
Beyond that, write about the things this moment is decidedly NOT. Write about the places it takes you in your dreams at night, your imaginary games, your flights of fancy. Build worlds of your own, invent people to talk to. Reach beyond your current moment, and down deep into what you have always carried inside yourself. The physical limitations of this pandemic have no power over your imagination, where you can wander anywhere you like.Laurel Snyder, Author Spotlight, Two Writing Teachers
And didn’t Savannah do exactly what Snyder suggests? She built a world of her own and invented people to talk to. Yes, she reached beyond the current moment. With her journal, Savannah indeed exemplifies Snyder’s notion that the corona virus has no power over her imagination.
Receiving this jewel of a journal in my homework inbox last week was a real day brightener, and I just wanted to share it with you. It’s a reminder that our students can still thrive in these uncertain times.