monique polak

Monique Polak's Books

4 minutes reading time (771 words)

Oh What a Morning at Programme Mile End High School!

I am just home after such a happy morning at Programme Mile End High School here in Montreal. I was at the school -- an alternative school that's part of the English Montreal School Board's Outreach Network --  to introduce students to a Blue Metropolis Literary Foundation educational project called Looking Back for a Better Future. The project, funded by Canadian Heritage, brings Quebec teens together with seniors so the students can interview "their" seniors to learn life lessons about getting through challenging times. In today's pic, I am with my friend, teacher Annie Ogle and my new friend -- a student named Alex, who I observed has an amazing smile. (He kindly agreed to demonstrate that smile for this pic.)

The students will be journaling about their experience, so I covered some journaling strategies, then moved on to interviewing tips. The students can choose to take part in the Blue Met project -- and my feeling is that many of them want to be involved. YAY! Also, there's going to be a documentary film made about the project!

I worked with three groups of students. After my session with the first group, Roxanne and Ryan stayed behind to tell me they both enjoy writing and they want to be part of the project. Ryan said, "I always try to start a journal and then I lose it. I don't have a pretty book." So I was delighted when Roxanne turned to Ryan and said, "I'll get you one." (Just telling you that little story makes me laugh -- and smile.)

At recess, a student named Zoie became my instant favourite when she asked me, "Are you the girl who's doing the writing thing?" I had to laugh because as I told Zoie, no one's called me a girl in at least 50 years!!

The second group was full of fun characters. Aiden is eager to be in the documentary. "It'd be cool to be an actor," he told us, "but for the documentary I'm not going to act, I'm going to tell the truth." I thought that was a beautifully-expressed understanding of the difference between say a feature film and a documentary. Avery told us, "I write poetry when I'm bored or when I'm mad." You know what Avery? I think you should use that line for the first line of your next poem! And Alex told us that a social worker told him to write in a journal when something good happens, "so I can remember it." I totally agree! Journals are for all our feelings -- the sad ones, the happy ones, and everything else in between.

Addison and Lily are excited about interviewing seniors. Addison told us, "I've been practicing all my life for this. There are so many old people in my family." Lily said, "I'm really good at talking to old people because I'm so curious." CURIOUS might just be my word for today. As I was telling the students, if they are curious they will learn a lot -- and they will also be giving a huge gift to the seniors. Because we all need to feel others are curious to learn more about us.

My last group was wonderful too. Shout-out to Steven who didn't need to be persuaded to be my notetaker! KR and Sadi had such interesting reactions when I explained the goal of the project is to learn what challenges the seniors faced, and how they overcame those challenges. Sadi said, "It sounds like a therapy session" and KR said, "It sounds like journalism." Those two responses really got me thinking -- maybe a really successful interview does a little of both those things. KR also said something that made me so happy: "What's the point of life if you don't have a story to tell?" EXACTLY! We all have stories to tell, and hopefully the students will be inspired by the stories they hear when we go to meet their seniors next week at the Eva Marsden Centre in Montreal West. I know the seniors are going to love these kids -- and get energized by their company (that's what happened to be me this morning!!). We'll be at the Eva Marsden Centre on March 18th and back again on the 25th. If you're CURIOUS to learn how things go, head right back here to find out!

Thanks to Annie and to Colin Throness who does creative writing workshops with the kids and who also popped by to say hello. And a huge thank you to the kids. You know the expression You made my day? Well, you did!

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Monday, 15 April 2024

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