monique polak

Monique Polak's Books

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Second Day of Writing Workshops at St. Thomas High School

I'm just home from my second of three days of writing workshops at St. Thomas High School -- and I have a lot of fun stuff to tell you!

See the kids with me in today's pic? They're students from Mr. Rowland's Grade Seven English class. (I worked with three groups of students today -- Mr. Rowland's, Mr. Katz's and Mr. Thomas's.) The boy in the middle of the pic, wearing a grey shirt, is Harry. What I liked about Harry is that he's an original thinker. Here's the proof: I was telling the students how I sometimes steal pens. I don't mean from stores... but I have a bad habit of just kind of collecting them during the day. I do it because I'm always running out of ink -- which is a problem if you're a writer who loves jotting stuff down! Anyway, Harry raised his hand and asked, "Don't you like when your pen runs out? Doesn't it make you feel happy that you used a pen?"

Harry, I want to say THANKS. I will never again get grumpy when one of my pens runs out of ink. Instead, I'm going to think of what you told me -- and feel happy about it.

When I told the class that, in nearly 30 years, I only ONCE skipped writing in my journal, a student named Téa asked, "Why did you skip that day?" Oh, that made me happy! That's because it shows that Téa is SNOOPY or CURIOUS, which is an important trait in a writer. (The answer to the question is: I had the flu, and felt too woozy to even sit up in bed and hold a pen!)

There was time for a writing exercise with Mr. Katz's students -- so I had them write about a moment in their lives when they felt they changed. Madurta wrote something beautiful, which she gave me permission to share in today's blog. Thanks,Madurta! It's a powerful beginning to your story, and it shows us you are a courageous young woman. Here goes:

"The day I changed elementary schools from Greensdale which is now Kingsdale to Terry Fox because I got bullied. I'll tell you what happened. I was six years old and I was always alone. Some kids came and made fun of me and punched me. This happened for three years."

Madurta, I want to say that though you were working with difficult material today, you told your story in a compelling, moving way. I love the line "I'll tell you what happened." That line creates a kind of closeness with your reader. The details of the bullying you experienced are important to your story. It won't be easy for you to keep writing this piece, but I think you should. And I think you need to also write about your own resilience, how you overcame the experience and how it may continue to affect you to this day. You know what, Mardurta? Our world needs more stories about bullying -- and resilience!

I ended my day with Mr. Thomas's class. Because I was preparing for a quick getaway (I wanted to beat the school buses parked outside), I didn't write down students' names. But these kids were great. Often, students in the last class of the day are unfocused -- or rather they are focused on LEAVING, not learning... but not Mr. Thomas's class They were keen to learn about body language, and to hear the story of my monkey man charm.

I'll be back at St. Thomas next Wednesday. I'll bring my lunch and have it in one of the library's study rooms during junior lunch. Hey, if any of you want to come and chat about writing, or show me your work, that would be a great time to do it!

Many thanks to the teachers, to librarian Mrs. Pye for arranging the visit, to librarian Mrs. Thom for being there today, and to the kids for being wonderful. See you guys next week!

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Monday, 11 December 2023

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