Each day we go into Broad Ripple Magnet School, we set out with the goal of getting the students we mentor to grow. As the course title would suggest, ideally we see the growth in their writing abilities. This is done by providing the students with prompts to spark creativity, as well as simple conversation about life. If all goes well, a student might produce something that they want to read in front of their peers.
Or, they might create a dance.
I had an experience with this recently. A group of students who I’d frequently worked with nabbed me as I walked in the door, eager to show me the new dance they’d choreographed. It was inspired by a school pep rally earlier in the week. I got permission to take them out into the hall and see this dance before doing anything else. This led to my best day as a mentor so far.
The dance the students preformed was to the song “Rolex” by Ayo & Teo. It contained some of the most incredible moves I’d ever seen—for someone who can’t dance at all, this was quite the show. Most importantly, though, it brought a joy to these boys’ faces that I’m not sure I had seen before.
After running through the dance a few more times, laughing with the boys whenever someone mis-stepped, they asked me if they could perform the dance at Open Mic, the time typically reserved for students to read their writing. I assured them that they could, and they went right back at it with more passion than ever. I knew they were going to kill it.
And they did. When Open Mic rolled around, the students hit every move with precision. It was evident by the performance how long they had spent rehearsing, which, by my count, was pretty nonstop for over an hour. They stood graciously in the thunderous applause of their classmates before going to their seats to take in the rest of the class’s creativity.
I, however, took something else away from the endeavor. Before that day, I assumed WITS was primarily about writing, and I always felt discouraged when no writing took place. However, the day the boys danced, I didn’t even try to make them write a single word, and that day marks my favorite as a mentor to date. The boys were happy, I was happy, and their classmates were happy for them.
I realized then that WITS is less about the writing and more about creative expression. These students are all looking for an outlet—maybe the boy who doesn’t write simply needs to dance, or sing, or something else he enjoys. It’s out there, and we have to find it. Though “writing” is in the title, the point of WITS is to foster creativity in young people. Letting them dance their faces off for an hour and thirty minutes does just that.
Eric Michel is a junior English major.