I have frizzy hair. This is not an earth-shattering issue, obviously. But it's part of who I am. My hair is untameable. Could I fashion an essay out of this? I've learned to embrace my giant head of hair... is there a metaphor there?
You know how some people say mental illness runs in the family? Well, maybe in your family it's a stampede. I bet your crazy Uncle has taught you a thing or two... maybe not on purpose, but all the same...
Being a bad speller carries with it it's own set of challenges and delights. (I'm thinking of a student who wrote that he wanted to be a collage coach when he meant college... so funny.) But I bet you could find a metaphor for the larger meaning of what bad spellers have in common, must face, or must overcome.
I'm thinking about the time I moved from New Orleans to Northern California. Back in Nawlins, I'd been in the advanced gymnastics class... which meant we could do forward rolls and were learning the back somersault. I soon found out in NoCal that advanced was... way more advanced. Kids were doing back handsprings without help, aerial cartwheels, and more.
Instead of calling a halt to the madness and leaving the class, I- a particularly foolhardy and stubborn 7 year old- plunged in and tried it all. I landed on my back in the back handspring (all back, no spring) and my face in the aerial cartwheel... both sides. The kids all laughed, which only made me try harder. And fall harder. The teacher took pity and asked if I could do a back somersault. "Of course," I said to peals of laughter. When I tried it, though, I got stuck halfway round. The teacher came over and tried to help push me through. The effort I exerted caused me to pass gas in her face. Nobody noticed that I eventually did complete the tumble.
I wanted to die. Instead, I mustered some sort of bruised dignity and marched out of the class without a word. I sat waiting on the curb for my mom to come get me. I told her I was over gymnastics but did not tell her why. For years, I couldn't even watch gymnastics on the Olympics without feeling a little uneasy after that day.
But as I look back now at that kid, I'm super proud of her. When I face challenges now as an adult, I'm pretty quick to cry "uncle" and quit before giving it a go. I love that Young Me had the guts to try it. The guts to fly and flop and land on her face. There are times now when I think I might need to invoke that fierceness.
It's especially important now as a teacher that I model the fierceness of Young Me. I want my students to try new things, to invoke what I love to call a "pioneering spirit"... so I must show that in myself. And I do. I'm always trying new things. I still act on stage. I improvise. I take risks.
OK. So you get the idea. The next problem students have? "I don't know how to start." Start writing in the middle. Start with the most vivid scene. You can always go back and fill in background information and an ending later.
I know we're pushing you to learn new vocab words. (Favorite vocab word we learned together: donnybrook.) Don't use them when you write. Write in your voice. If it's too slang and colloquial, we can always go edit later. For now, just get it down on the page. The story is most important.
Finally, send that nasty inner editor out of the room. You know the one. "That's not the right word... that's stupid... is that even a good idea at all?" Tell him that mama's gotta write and you'll invite him back later. Get stuff written first.