All posts by Dana Huff

Wife, mother, indie writer, reader, book and education blogger, Technology Integration Specialist, and English teacher.  Fangirl.

Digital Stories: Feedback from Students

feedback photo
Photo by Skley

After we viewed the digital stories my students had created this year, I asked students to evaluate themselves using the rubric I had given them. Next year, I will definitely make time to create the rubric with the students in advance. The rubric I have is good, but the students could make it better. On the back of the rubric, I asked students to give me feedback about the project. I wanted to collect some of their feedback here for those who might be thinking about this project and are feeling on the fence. This feedback represents what the students actually said (warts and all).

Don’t change this from being the final exam because it’s an absolutely great way to end the year and it’s really fun. I don’t think anything needs to be tweaked, the timing is perfect, the spacing for due dates is good and the help given is great.

I loved the project and how we could all pick whatever we wanted and got to watch everyones. Don’t have to change anything, it was great.

In all honesty, I think this project is a lot of fun to put together and all the criteria make sense, even when you don’t think you have a story to tell. It fits for everyone, especially with all you can choose from.

I think the idea of this project is awesome. I had a lot of fun with it and finally learned how to use iMovie. I didn’t find anything wrong with the project.

I liked this project. It was very fun and I enjoyed watching the videos at the end. I liked being able to pick your own idea instead of being told what to do. I wouldn’t take anything out. I liked where you checked our script too. It really helped me at least with knowing it was ok.

The project is great! I enjoyed every part and was excited to do it every step of the way. The one part I had difficulties with was the sound aspect. The sites are great [sites I provided for finding public domain and Creative Commons media] with so many options, but I’m not good at picking things like that. Thank you for helping me find the “perfect” one (better than I could have done).

I don’t know how you could improve it. I thought it was well explained and fun. I would keep everything the same.

I don’t think there should be many changes to the project at all. It’s a really good and fun project. I enjoyed making my video and going back to find everything.

You should keep this project next year. I really enjoy doing the digital story.

The project was very clear and I really like how our final was a project. The project helped me become more creative and engaging. Personally, I really like it and nothing should be changed. Also, I learned a lot in this class, and thank you for a great year, Mrs. Huff!

This project was very fun. I enjoyed our own choice of theme. It was even fun looking back at old pictures and reliving my little league life. One thing that did frustrate me was learning to use different applications on my computer. If I was taught throughout the year to use these different sources this project would have been much more enjoyable. Overall a great project.

I have to point out that last feedback came from a student who struggled with the technology to the point of wanting to give up and take a zero. He persevered, and he did a fabulous job in the end. He was very proud of his work. His feedback about using the software earlier and more often is legitimate. Many students tell me this project is the first time they have opened the iMovie and GarageBand applications on their school-issued computers.

I had a lot of fun doing the project, I enjoyed showing where I’m from and I hope my video would inspire someone to visit one day.

I like the project and we have enough time to do it.

A few trends emerge for me from this feedback:

  1. Students seem to love this project, and even those who struggled said it was a great project and should be kept in the curriculum.
  2. Students seemed to feel they had enough time to complete it. I was worried about that because I gave them more time last year.
  3. Students appreciated the agency they had as they created the project: picking the topic and telling the story they wanted to tell was an important reason why they enjoyed the project.
  4. Student felt proud of their work. They didn’t exactly say so in so many words of feedback to me, but it shone through in the feedback they gave themselves. Here are some snippets:

I am very happy with my music choice and the amount of pictures I chose.

I had a lot of good pictures.

I liked how I had the music start after I said the title.

I liked the pictures.

I thought I had the perfect music and well placed pictures.

I did not have many pictures, but I was able to think of ways to get around lacking pictures.

I paid lots of effort on it and I really enjoy this project.

I did well with the pictures as well as the story.

This project was very challenging for me from the start. After figuring it out things began to come together. Once my voiceover came in I started to enjoy the project.

I think my video has pretty good background music and photos that go along with the voice.

All these comments tell me that the students feel good about what they were able to do. They offered fair criticisms as well. Most of them didn’t feel 100% confident their voiceovers were as good as they could be, but that could also be they are not used to hearing their voices and worry about how they sound (most of us feel that way when we hear ourselves on a recording).

This project makes for a great culminating narrative. They worked on narrative writing, and putting their personal narratives together with image and music to tell a story using video was a great way to see what they had learned about telling a story. And as it turns out, they learned a lot. I’m really proud of them.

Related posts:

Digital Stories 2016

Last year, I shared my students’ digital stories. While I did have some good work, I knew the end results could be improved. I did some reflecting and retooling, and I made a few changes to the project for this year. First, I introduced more checkpoints that counted for a grade. For example, bringing an idea (or several) to writing workshop, which was part of the project last year, became a small quiz grade. Just like last year, I asked students to write a draft of their script, and I conferred with each student about the draft.

I added in checkpoints as well. Students needed to show me a collection of images so that I could help them if it looked like they might not have enough material to work with. Collecting images was a problem last year, but I didn’t realize until too late that many of my students were struggling with this issue, and they didn’t realize it was a problem until they tried to assemble their movies and didn’t feel they had enough images. I also wanted to see the draft of the movie, which was graded, so I could give them feedback on potential issues such as a runaway Ken Burns effect (common if you are using iMovie and don’t know how to correct it) or music overpowering the voiceover audio.

Another change I made that actually worried me: I gave students less time to do the project than I did last year. It was an accident. I looked at the calendar, and I realized we hadn’t started the project yet. I freaked out a little, and then I sat down with a calendar to figure it out. It would be tight, I thought, but we could still do it. I gave a copy of the calendar to the students so they would know exactly what was due and when.

I think that reducing the amount of time I gave my students actually resulted in better work from them. I am not sure why this is unless the pressure of completing it in a shorter period of time meant students actually attended to it in a more timely fashion than they would have if they had more time and were tempted to put it off until the last minute. I think procrastination may have been a much larger issue last year because students felt like they had more time. I suppose it is true that we use all of the time we have to complete a project, and if the deadline is tighter, perhaps we put our shoulders to the wheel.

I am really happy with the results this year. Students were thoughtful and reflective. Their stories sound like them and reflect who they are. What a great group of writers!

As always, there were some hiccups. Students do not know how to use this software. The biggest mistake educators make is assuming kids are digital natives and can figure this stuff out. No, you need to teach them how to use it, and you need to be prepared to be a guide on the side for the entire movie project if you are asking students to make films. If there is one thing I could ask educators to stop doing, it is assigning technology-based projects without helping guide the students through the use of the tools. I hear it over and over again from educators that students just know how to use the software.

Another issue: students at my school have MacBooks, but they don’t keep them updated. Several had to get the latest version of iMovie because older versions didn’t work well on their computers. I asked them to check on updates before the project, but of course, not all of them did. We had a few setbacks as students struggled with lack of RAM (they really need to stop opening every program on their computer at once). One student’s computer apparently imploded right after he uploaded his video to his Google Drive account. I am so relieved it waited until after the project (so was he!). Students really ran into problems as a result of the way in which they use the computers: not updating, keeping too many programs open, not restarting regularly.

Because I gave the students a calendar, absences were not a problem (for the most part). Students definitely need support for this project. I think the results are worthwhile, however, and with this excellent crop of digital stories this year, I can’t wait to see what next year’s students create.

Related posts:

Slice of Life #25: Red Sox Fan

Dylan and Mom
Dylan and I on the commuter rail, headed for the Red Sox game

Yesterday was Marathon Monday in Boston. Three years ago, we were all watching in shock as the Boston Marathon was the center of a terrorist attack that ended three lives and injured many more, irrevocably changing their lives. The Boston Marathon Bombing also irrevocably changed Boston. The moment was unforgettably captured by hometown hero and Red Sox DH, David “Big Papi” Ortiz.

I have never been into sports much. There was a time when I was in my late teens and early twenties when I followed tennis a bit, but even then, I didn’t follow it closely really. Sports brought back some painful memories of trying to get my body to do things I couldn’t figure out how to do. PE was always a challenge for me. I could run, and I actually had pretty good endurance. I might have made a good cross country runner. I will never know. The one year I finally decided to try out for cross country, my school declared there was no interest in a team, and we didn’t have one. I had gone to the athletics physical before the start of the year and everything. In those days, I didn’t advocate for myself much, so I let it go.

Perhaps you need to know that my history with sports is one of disappointment, frustration, and even some regret. I grew up in Aurora, Colorado, and the Broncos were everything to my classmates. John Elway was quarterback in those days. I moved to St. Louis for a short time, and I saw my first major league baseball game—Cardinals versus the Dodgers at Busch Stadium. I don’t remember much about it. Mom had obtained the tickets through work, and though none of us were baseball fans, it seemed like a fun opportunity. I got to see Fernando Valenzuela pitch. The Cardinals lost.

Though my high school had been state football champs the fall before I started going there, and though my college was a big SEC school, I never could get into football, either, and I don’t really think I will. As a member of the marching band, football was more often the cause of resentment for me than anything else, and once I was in college, my dorm was right next to the stadium. On weekends, tailgaters trashed the alley by my dorm  and the whole place stank of beer. This careless disregard for my home did not do a lot to change my disposition toward sports and their fans.

I don’t think I immediately registered exactly what that moment meant when Big Papi took to the field to claim Boston back from those who would want to make us afraid. Now when I watch it, I get goosebumps. He gave that speech three years ago tomorrow. We watched it on the news. Some time after that, my husband started watching games on TV. He had been a baseball fan in his youth. Then, incredibly, the Red Sox were in the running for the pennant. And then they were in the World Series. And then they won the World Series!

My mom had become an Atlanta Braves fan after my family moved to Georgia. She used to watch their games on TV. Because of her, I knew the names of the players, and I even watched a little if it was on TV when I visited. But I couldn’t get into the Braves. There was something magic about watching the Red Sox play, though. They had heart. The players were such characters. It was that year that they all grew beards for good luck. Incredibly, I was a fan for the first time in my life.

I watched the disappointing 2014 and 2015 seasons. It didn’t matter that the Red Sox didn’t repeat. Well, I would have preferred it if they had, but it was through the adversity of those two season that I realized I really was a fan, and not just when the team was winning. I was sad to see some of my favorite players traded. That’s part of the game; I get it. It’s early days this season, but I like watching the current lineup play as well.

For Christmas, I bought my husband tickets to see the Red Sox play the Blue Jays on April 16, which also happened to be my son’s 13th birthday. We had a great time. The Sox beat the Blue Jays 4-1. Unfortunately, they lost the next two games, splitting the series 2-2. The game on Marathon Monday was particularly heartbreaking. The Sox had it in the bag as Clay Buchholz pitched a really good game. The Sox defense made five double plays. There was no reason for the Sox to have lost, but the relief pitchers gave away some runs, and the game ended with the Blue Jays winning 4-3.

If anything, going to a real Red Sox game at Fenway Park, which is just an incredible place to see, made me a bigger fan. We had a nice view from the grandstand, looking out across third plate. I was able to see David Ortiz play. Xander Bogaerts hit a homerun. My favorite player, Dustin Pedroia, hit a single. David Price pitched a great game. Koji Uehara, the hero closer of the 2013 World Series, pitched one inning. Craig Kimbrel was throwing fire in the 9th. We all had a great time at the game. It was a memory I’ll carry with me, and it was wonderful to share it with my family on my son’s birthday.

Koji Uehara
Koji Uehara pitching in the 8th inning

I can’t wait to go see another game at Fenway, but I’ll be watching from my couch tonight as the Sox begin a series with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Slice of LifeSlice of Life is a weekly writing challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Visit their blog for more information about the challenge and for advice and ideas about how to participate.

Related posts:

The Last Slice

writing photo

Today is the last day of the Slice of Life March blogging challenge. I was able to write a post every single day this month. I made it!

For my last post, I’m literally just going to talk about my day. We started with a faculty meeting and English department meeting that included a great discussion of how to make integration work better between departments. My colleagues have some great ideas.

I taught three classes: my two sections of American literature and an independent study in British literature. My student in British literature had a scheduling issue, and the only way we could resolve it was to set her up in a class by herself. She read Chaucer’s “Knight’s Tale” over break, and we started “The Miller’s Tale” today. She was a little surprised, even though I warned her. She found some helpful videos online to help her understand the stories a little better. Her father is one of my colleagues, and we had an impromptu conference this morning when he stopped by another colleague’s office to ask a question. I share my classroom with another teacher, and when he’s teaching, I tend to camp out in my colleague’s office. Dad said she is enjoying the independent study, but she misses the interaction with other kids. That makes sense. We really do learn more from each other.

My American literature classes are starting The Great Gatsby. I book-talked The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien before we took ten minutes to read. Interesting and true story: my two international students from Vietnam both want to read this book. On the one hand, I see why. Both of them have expressed a lot of interest in books set in their home country. As veterans go, O’Brien bears no particular ill will toward the Vietnamese, so I think they will be okay reading it. Naturally, they are curious about this war that ravaged their country before they were born. I wouldn’t want to shield them from it. It’s true, it happened, and it likely directly affected their families. But I’m still thinking about it and hoping they will be okay reading it. They both seemed very eager to look at it. One bought the e-book right there in class. The other borrowed my copy. Both of them also read Thanhha Lai’s Inside Out & Back Again, which is set after the Fall of Saigon, when the main character Ha’s family flee to America. These two boys write most beautifully when they write about their homes. I taught both of them last year as well.

I had a quick meeting after school. I came home to a box from Stitch Fix (just keeping two items, neither of which are school clothes: a boho top and some denim capris). We drove up to Five Guys for burgers for dinner. Then we went to the thrift store, and this is my book haul.

Thrift Store Books

Hidden from view in the image—Zadie Smith’s White Teeth. Not a bad haul. They had a pretty good selection of books. I could easily have bought a few more.

Now I’m curled up on the couch, getting ready to go over my lesson plans for tomorrow before I go to bed. A good day. And tomorrow is Friday. 😎

Slice of LifeSlice of Life is a daily writing challenge during the month of March hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Visit their blog for more information about the challenge and for advice and ideas about how to participate.

 

Related posts:

You Can Do the Thing!

Last night when I was looking around on Twitter, I came across this tweet by the illustrious Geoffrey Chaucer:

Yes, I know this is a (sort of) parody account, and it’s not even a serious tweet, but I was actually nervous about something I had to do today, and believe it or not, this tweet actually helped a little.

I was reading yesterday that people actually fear the unknown more than they fear situations about which they know the outcome, even if the outcome is bad. Because I have anxiety, I am probably worse than most people. Oh, I can gin up a ton of horrific scenarios! I can tell myself rationally that things are unlikely to happen that way, but the fact is that if you put together anxiety with OCD (and my type tends towards obsessions rather than compulsions), well, let’s just say I can worry like nobody’s business.

I have really tried to get a handle on the worrying in the past. For example, I have read the Bible verse in which Jesus says not to worry, which is beautiful and worth quoting in its entirety (I’m partial to the NKJV, though I love that the New American Standard Bible calls this passage “The Cure for Anxiety”):

25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

 Matthew 6:25-34

I totally understand the point, and rationally, I agree with it. Worrying doesn’t do me any good. But knowing worrying is harmful doesn’t help me stop worrying. And then I feel bad for having “little faith.” Something else to worry about! I worry I don’t trust enough in myself, in the goodness of others, or, if you like, in God that everything will work out.

The absolute worst thing for me is not knowing how something will work out so that I can worry about all the possible horrible outcomes until the event transpires—and it’s rarely as horrible as I imagined. In fact, I’m not even sure I can think of a single time it was as bad as I imagined. I just hate having anything hang over me long enough for my imagination to get to work on it.

And the thing that I was worried I couldn’t do, or that might go wrong, actually went fine. It went really well, in fact. Geoffrey Chaucer was right. I can totally do the thing. So can you. We should all listen to him more often.

Slice of LifeSlice of Life is a daily writing challenge during the month of March hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Visit their blog for more information about the challenge and for advice and ideas about how to participate.

Related posts:

My Computer is Fixed!

computer coffee photo

Thanks to those of you who expressed concern about my computer issues. It’s been fixed! It appears to have been an issue with operating system, as the technician thought it might be. All of my files are okay. In fact, even the one I made the same day before my computer froze was there. My bookmarks in Firefox looked like they might be lost until I remembered that I had used Firefox Sync, so I logged in and boom! They were all back.

I do appear to be missing some applications, and I need to reinstall a few others. Plus I was on El Capitan, and the new install is Yosemite. But I’m back in business, and none the worse for wear. We have a very good Apple technician. We are so lucky! A lot of people commented that I was awfully calm about the computer issue, but the thing is, I have worked with this guy for nearly four years, and he’s amazing. I had absolute confidence he would be able to fix it. I was impressed with how fast he fixed it, though. I expected to be out a computer for a few days at least, just because of the volume of work he has to do. I guess I was lucky because it was after break, and perhaps he didn’t have a ton of computers to fix as a result.

The summer before last, I had a big issue with my computer and tried to fix it myself. I have a bit of pride, as a former tech integrator, and I do know how to fix a lot of things. However, what I wound up doing on that previous occasion was completely erasing my hard drive. I have learned my lesson, and now I take things I can’t fix to the tech office.

Today was the first day of classes after break. My AP students had read The Hours by Michael Cunningham over the break, so we discussed it just a little bit before we started viewing the film, which is a fine adaptation of the novel. Students will write a paper after we finish. My American literature students began a narrative writing assignment today using a brainstorming technique one of my colleagues likes to use with students. First, I timed the students, giving them two minutes to brainstorm as many incidents as they could think of when they had a chance to stand up for themselves or someone else and either did or did not do so. Then I asked them to pick one and gave them seven minutes to sketch out the incident. Now they are to turn the sketch into a longer narrative to be workshopped next week.

It was good to see the students again. They had good breaks. Some of them traveled. Some stayed around town. They seemed rested and happy to be back. They are also counting down the days until the end of the school year, though. I learned from them today that we have 33 school days left.

Slice of LifeSlice of Life is a daily writing challenge during the month of March hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Visit their blog for more information about the challenge and for advice and ideas about how to participate.

Related posts:

My Computer’s Broken

broken photo

Today my computer broke. We are issued MacBook Pro computers at work. Each teacher and student receives the same device, with the exception of sixth graders, who are participating in an iPad pilot program this year. I have had my computer about eight months. We are issued replacements every three years. I hadn’t had any problems with it until today.

I closed my laptop to walk across campus, and when I opened it to take some notes, all my apps were unresponsive. I couldn’t even get to a point where I could force-quit them. So I shut the computer down using the power button—a last resort. When I tried to boot it up again, the progress bar got about halfway and then quit. It happened again. When I tried to boot it up in safe mode, same deal. Twice. So I decided not to try to troubleshoot it anymore. Last time I did that, I lost all the data on my hard drive. I took it to our tech office. My own most recent backup was a bit too long ago to try to restore from, and to be honest, I’m not sure how to do it when the computer won’t even boot up.

Sure enough, our technician had the same results trying to start my computer. He believes there is something wrong with the operating system, so he is backing up my data and doing a clean OS install. I borrowed the computer I’m currently using to make this post, but I don’t have access to any of my documents or other files. Our technician is very good at fixing these types of problems, so it’s not likely I’ll lose anything, but I’m still frustrated.

If you’re like me, perhaps your life is on your device, too. I know where everything is on my laptop. Navigating this temporary computer is a bit like the learning curve I’m experiencing learning to drive my new car. This morning, for instance, I learned I had been driving my car in S-mode, which is really more used for slippery conditions. Oh well. Wish me luck with the computer. I would hate to lose my data.

Aside from that issue, it was a good first day back after break. The students will return tomorrow. I’ll be glad to see them.

Slice of LifeSlice of Life is a daily writing challenge during the month of March hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Visit their blog for more information about the challenge and for advice and ideas about how to participate.

Related posts:

Spring Break Recap

spring photo

I’m feeling spring. I changed my browser theme to cherry blossoms, which are my favorite harbinger of spring after living near Macon, GA, for so many years. Washington, DC gets a lot of press for their cherry blossoms, but Macon has its own Cherry Blossom Festival and a number of gorgeous Yoshino cherry trees as well.

Tomorrow I go back to school after a two-week spring break. We didn’t do any traveling. We usually don’t, as my children’s spring break doesn’t coincide with my own, but that’s okay. I read three books and finished one I had been working on before the break. You can read my reviews on my book blog if you like:

I was lazy. I kept up with this writing challenge. I bought a new car—the first time I’ve bought a car in, oh, I forget how many years, but it’s got to be nearly ten if not more than ten, and the first new car I’ve owned since the Saturn I bought in 1999 (I think—or 1998).

My new car

It has been a lot of fun having a zippy, brand new car. I’ve got 98 miles on it now, in case you are interested.

Today was, of course, Easter. When my sister and I were little, my mom used to make beautiful, elaborate Easter baskets for us. She loves making Easter baskets. We probably got baskets each year until we moved out. I am not going to lie; I always saw creating Easter baskets as a huge, expensive burden. I have not kept up the tradition, at least not the last couple of years, and my kids seem okay with that. They are probably the least acquisitive kids you’d ever meet. I’m lucky.

My sister and I also dyed and hunted Easter eggs, though I’m sure we stopped doing that before we got too old. My own children haven’t wanted to hide eggs in years, and we haven’t dyed them in a while.

When we were little girls, especially, my grandmother used to make us Easter dresses every year. It was more a tradition than a necessity. We rarely had occasion to dress up much, but I think it made my grandmother happy to make us pretty dresses. I hunted through my pictures today to see if I could find one of my sister and me in our new Easter dresses, but I must not have any.

I had a terrific, relaxing break with a little bit of excitement. I was able to do some much needed unplugging from work. I had a lovely little taste of summer. I’m really excited to see what we can do this summer now that we can travel a little. I really looking forward to the summer.

I will be happy to see my students again and hear about their break adventures.

Slice of LifeSlice of Life is a daily writing challenge during the month of March hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Visit their blog for more information about the challenge and for advice and ideas about how to participate.

Related posts:

On Storytelling

writing photo
Photo by Damian Gadal

I am reading Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. It’s been on my to-read list for a very long time, and I picked it up on a whim last night. These passages out of “Spin” caught my attention this afternoon:

You take your material where you can find it, which is your life, at the intersection of past and present. The memory-traffic feeds into a rotary up on your head, where it goes in circles for a while, then pretty soon imagination flows in and the traffic merges and shoots off down a thousand different streets. As a writer, all you can do is pick a street and go for the ride, putting things down as they come at you. That’s the real obsession. All those stories. 34-35

Later in the same chapter/story, O’Brien writes:

Forty-three years old, and the war occurred half a lifetime ago, and yet the remembering makes it now. And sometimes remembering will lead to a story, which makes it forever. That’s what stories are for. Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story. (38)

These passages really resonated with me because I consider myself a bit of an ambassador for storytelling. I am the family historian. I captured some of the stories of my grandparents and their own grandparents as told to them. I’ve tried to capture a few of my own stories, too. I don’t have anything like serving in the Vietnam War in my background, like Tim O’Brien does, but I do have stories. All of us do, and even though O’Brien is writing stories about the war, I have the sense he’d agree with me.

I find accepting the idea that all of us have stories is one of the biggest hurdles to writing. Many students—and for that matter, many adults—think they don’t have anything interesting worth sharing.  I think we have a skewed idea of what constitutes interesting. In many cases, if we’ve lived it, we can’t see the potential it might have to intrigue someone else. And then we might be daunted by what we perceive as our inability to tell the story.

Tell it anyway. That is what revision is for. The important thing is to get it down, record it, get it out there. And then share it. The important thing is just to tell your stories. There are lots of ways to do it. If you are more of a writer, write them down. If you’re more of an oral storyteller, record yourself. Video editing software, podcasting software, and services like StoryCorps with their storytelling apps make it easy to capture your stories or those of others. Lest anyone ever in a million years think they don’t have a story, they should listen to the beautiful and wonderful story of Danny and Annie, one of the most popular stories of all time on StoryCorps:

Since I’m thinking of Tim O’Brien, now seems like a good time to share this video I created when I interviewed my grandfather about his war experiences.

Go tell your stories.

Slice of LifeSlice of Life is a daily writing challenge during the month of March hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Visit their blog for more information about the challenge and for advice and ideas about how to participate.

Related posts:

I Didn’t Even Open My Pencil Case

“I didn’t even open my pencil case,” she said waving it at me a little bit at the end of class. It was an indictment. I can’t really remember what we did in class that day anymore. I just remember her response. Clearly, class time was not used well if she didn’t have to write down something at least once. She was tough. She used to watch me in class, and her eyes seemed to say, “Go on, then.” It was a challenge. She was skeptical that I would meet it. After all, her experiences in school had been very different until she came to America to study. She was from Vietnam.

She was one of a larger number of international students at my school. They are brave students. They come to America, many thousands of miles away from home, live on campus and study in a second language. This girl in particular was one grade above most of the students in my English class. The year before, she had been in our English language learner classes, and her teachers thought she would benefit from a full year in World Literature II rather than going directly into American Studies in Literature, which eleventh graders typically took. She wasn’t very happy about being in my class. Not at first.

It’s funny how a few years on, some of the details are so fuzzy, but I remember she found an assignment particularly challenging, and for some reason or other, she didn’t do as well as she wanted to do on it. I can’t remember why anymore, but I didn’t want her to re-do it or revise it. She was pretty upset. There were a few tears. But after that happened, she started visiting me in my workspace. Sometimes she came to work in the library, which is where my workspace was at the time. Sometimes, though, she wasn’t there to work in the library. She would sit down at the table next to me and work on homework. Sometimes she asked questions. Sometimes she just worked in silence. Sometimes she asked me questions about Americans. She was completely flummoxed by capitalism, and we talked about it quite a bit.

Her favorite book that year was Things Fall Apart. It wasn’t a typical favorite. Most students enjoyed The Catcher in the Rye most of the books we studied. But she was thoughtful, and she saw interesting things in that book that the other students didn’t see. Her classmates will never forget during a Socratic seminar discussion of Ikemefuna’s death, that she connected the issue to a problem she said is a fairly substantial one in her home country—that if you hit a pedestrian with your car, you are responsible for their medical bills, which can stretch to a life-long responsibility. She has heard horror stories of drivers backing up and hitting the pedestrian again to ensure they are dead to avoid the responsibility. However, this story appears to be mainly urban legend, and it’s likely something that she heard from family and friends who wanted her to be watchful and safe when she was out walking in Hanoi. Still, it left an impression on the other students in class, as you might imagine.

Towards the end of the year, we were friends. She had worked very hard in my class, and I recommended that she try to take an AP English class for her senior year. She did take the class, and she excelled. She used to visit me to run her practice SAT essays by me. She had a real gift for attacking those types of prompts. I remember one essay was about following your dreams versus practicality, or a similar subject, and she wrote eloquently about her dream of becoming a chef, even though her family didn’t see it as a practical occupation. I said, “I didn’t know you wanted to be a chef.” I was very surprised to learn of her passion for cooking. She looked me dead in the eye and said, “I don’t. I just wrote about it for the essay.” Her ability to bluff her way through those SAT prompts with fake personal examples was unlike anything I’ve seen. She could thoroughly convince a reader of her passion for just about anything.I have to confess, it made me wonder what she really thought about, well, anything.

As she was preparing to graduate, she brought me a gift. “From my country,” she said.

Dana in Traditional Vietnamese HatMy dad was in Vietnam when I was born. He missed about the first six months of my life while he was stationed in Cam Ranh Bay.

She and I might have been unlikely friends, but I think we were friends, despite her ability to bluff her way through SAT prompts (and perhaps a lot of other things). She might not have had to open up her pencil case in my class as often as she thought she should, but eventually, after a little while, I think she opened up her mind and her heart.

We all have students we will never forget for one reason or another. She’s one of mine.

Slice of LifeSlice of Life is a daily writing challenge during the month of March hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Visit their blog for more information about the challenge and for advice and ideas about how to participate.

Related posts: