We (Marisol – the Director of Education at Maya Traditions and I) arrived in Chirijox. We go every week at 9 AM to work with this group before they go to school at 1 PM.
I arrived agenda in hand and ready to engage the kids in peer editing, documentary discussions, and generating more ideas. As a professor, I have learned to plan for the time that I spend with my students, but I have also learned that those plans might go right out the window. Be prepared to be flexible and be in the moment. It sounds kind of like I’m in yoga, when I say this, but it really is true, especially when you are working with kids.
They were asked to expand their story ideas for this coming week. After having an opportunity to meet Julio last week and hear his personal experience related to the civil unrest; and after hearing Pamela Yates talk about how she found the story of her documentary once she met Rigoberta Menchú, I thought, great, the kids are getting great examples of storytelling! I left them last week thinking they would be able to expand their story ideas.
I came back only to find that there was a lot of confusion around their direction. Most did very little if any writing. They were feeling a little unsettled and once that happens, kids (and adults) often tend toward a desire for structure. And ask for structure they did. They said that every time that I talk to them there is a different direction. They insisted that they needed a schedule of what they were doing and when. Of course this was hardly the point, since the objective is to have them direct this with me. Yet this is not surprising in the least. I fully empathize with their feeling in this moment. While this conversation unfolded, their body language was anything but enthusiastic.
This, I told them with the help of Marisol, is one of the challenges of language barriers.
We discussed that they interpreted that I wanted them to talk about the problems in their community because of the example I showed them from the project in the Dominican Republic. But that I was simply illustrating one possible direction to take. The presentations by Pamela and Julio were other possible directions. I reminded them that it is their role and responsibility to have a voice in what they want. I will help guide, but the story needs to be a passion that comes from within. Yes, we’ll investigate the historical groundings of these things, but the story is yours. I reminded them that their story ideas are about their communities – problems and solutions. Eyes widened and heads nodded. Whew, disaster averted! Tensions turned to smiles and on we went to work.
A new direction for Catalina and Fabiola: The more we shared ideas, the more Catalina and Fabiola realized that their stories were connected. They decided that they will work together – blending their ideas of telling about weaving, the importance of sheep that provide the thread for their traditional clothes. We worked to bring their ideas together talking….
and viewing an intro to “Beasts of the Southern Wild” to think about how to introduce an idea in a visual way.
Carmen, Marcos and Emilio will stay with their original ideas, with a new eye toward investigating the problems they care about and imaging possible solutions.
As we moved forward, Marisol worked hard reading, editing, and commenting on the writing. I know that this would be incredibly difficult if not impossible without her!
And so we left this week, all feeling happy once again. What stuggles will the youth will have between now and next week? I’m sure that there will be some, but at this juncture, they have identified personal plans for their what they will accomplish between now and then. In this light, the conversation should be more on level rather than looking for “authority” to tell them their next steps! Looking forward to next week.