Looking back at myself as an oft-bored teen, I have to marvel at the kids who join us after school at Broad Ripple. Not only is there an abundance of enthusiasm after a full day of classes, but every week I’m startled by the amount of talent I see. Natural storytellers, performers, singers, rappers, actors, musicians, comedians. I can only guess at the talent in the rest of BRHS hinted at by the 30 to 40 kids we see twice a week.
That’s not to say some don’t have tough days. One session, a kid showed up as tired as a 14 year-old who had woken up at 5 that morning, which is obviously what he was. As a former sleepy teen myself, I sympathized. We broke off from the larger group so we could concentrate (he was doing that thing where you yawn then everyone around you yawns despite themselves). Understandably, after an early rise that morning and over six hours of school he wasn’t exactly champing at the bit or lighting the page on fire.
So, instead, he and I had a conversation about the sorts of uncomfortable places he could fall asleep at that very moment. The stairs. Upright in a closet. Curled up on a desk. In a warm oven. (“A warm oven?” “Yeah, like 80 degrees.”) Ironically, this talk seemed to perk him up, so he wound up setting it all down as a simple poem.
Other than being entertaining, his poem served as a reminder to me of how tough a full day in school can be when you’re a teen–going from subject to subject, taking tests and accumulating homework for later. It can be more demanding than many full-time jobs.
I’m not a teacher or a parent so until WITS it was hard for me to have a firsthand perspective on kids in my community’s schools. I rarely have a chance to truly meet any of them. I’m glad WITS gives me the opportunity.
Greg O’Neill is a graduate students in the MFA Creative Writing program.