The Conference Insider
Friday, November 9, 2007

Writing Is the Best Therapy

by Natalie M., Friendswood Junior High student

I arrived at the George R Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston with five other students and the teacher who brought me to this NMSA conference. Choosing to attend the session "City Writers: Voices of Tweens," by Robert Vogel and Michael Galbraith, I headed off, following the labyrinth of endless hallways into conference room 381. Slipping in through the side door, I heard Michael Galbraith speaking about the importance of writing down your experience.

He showed a video of a boy, Kevin Singleton, reading a poem he had written called "I Am From." First he spoke of coming from heaven and God who brought him here. He then slowly turned, shifting from the glowing, rosy aspect of his life to the scary reality he currently faces. He has lost friends to shootings and witnessed devastating acts of violence. He talked about where he wanted to be and where he was and how unfair it was. He's right. He was able to open up and say these things through writing that he wouldn't otherwise have done, left to his own devices. He used this as his medium to paint the picture of his life to the world, however rosy or dark it may be at times.

But the presenters did not talk only about kids in the city whose fears are so obvious. They also noted that the kids in the suburbs and more affluent communities have their own unique set of problems. These problems are real, even if they sound petty compared to the problems of the inner city youth. Kids in the suburbs often have "helicopter parents" who have such high expectations for their children that they are under constant scrutiny and sometimes snap under the incessant pressure. Even though kids in the suburbs seemed outwardly perfect, nobody could even begin to guess what they were truly experiencing until they finally wrote their problems down for someone to read.

Most of the teachers I interviewed agreed with this concept. A counselor from St. Thomas More Private School, Raquel Dueote, even told me of a strategy they use in their school for their counselor's office slips. They have slips in the classrooms that the children write down their names, when they will come, and what they are coming for. Although the slip's intent was merely to remind her of who was coming, often just writing down their conflicts was therapeutic enough. In short, kids are more likely to trust the paper they are writing on, rather than the face that they feel is judging their every word. A face-to-face dialogue often intimidates students into omitting the details compared to the written words that speak the whole truth.

1...Thanks, NMSA!
2...Can't We All Just Get Along?
3...Writing Is the Best Therapy
4...Who's the Victim?
5...A New Way of Teaching
6...Where Did Parenting Go Wrong?

Friendswood Junior High
Friendswood, TX

Madeline A.
Andrew H.
Natalie M.
Corey S.
Nathan S.
Audrye W.

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About the authors:
These six savvy reporters live in Friendswood, Texas, a sleepy suburb south of Houston, home of TEA-awarded exemplary campus Friendswood Junior High. Under the tutelage of teacher, Danielle Wilkes and principal, Robin Lowe, these kids experienced NMSA and with laptops in hand, rushed to bring their experiences to you.