"Do you think we could actually be on the radio?"
This is the reaction I received when I told my AP classes we were going to submit our work to KQED for production. In our class, Advanced Placement Language and Composition, we had been studying the art of rhetoric and the power of language. We read texts closely, asking the questions: "How does a writer create meaning? Why does style matter?" After weeks of reading and analyzing the craft of other writers, I had my class listen to a few KQED Perspectives with the intention of writing our own. I wanted them to experience how a writer could capture a story in 375 words and perhaps publish that story for the world to hear. I also wanted to inspire them to write for larger and more formal audiences and to address a few of San Domenico's essential questions: "What are you going to do with your education? How might you contribute to the greater good?"
We then started off on our journey to write our Perspectives by brainstorming ideas and discussing the fact that all we needed as writers is one idea, one unique perspective to share with the world. I kept referring to Joan Didion's words in "Why I Write." She says, "I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear."
Following our workshops and revisions, I submitted my students' work to the KQED editor, who selected Makayla Pearce's "4C Hair" and Sophie Smith's "OCD and Me" to air on the KQED Perspectives segment. Interestingly, both perspectives share a theme of self-acceptance. For Makayla, she urges her listeners to reconsider self-criticism, especially as it relates to physical beauty. She writes, "I recently found the true beauty in my natural hair. As I became comfortable with myself, I learned that my forest of 4C hair needed its comfort as well. Gradually, I began to put down the dryer, and embraced the thick strands that yearned for my love."
Sophie Smith found inspiration in David Sedaris' "Plague of Tics," in which he illuminates what it's like to live with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. In Sophie's Perspective, she addresses the stigma of having OCD. She shares, "If someone had at least talked to me, told me I wasn't alone, I would've felt so much better. Now, I want to tell my story to anyone who will listen and help others feel more comfortable speaking up. Mental illness is a valid struggle and something that no one should ever have to be ashamed of."
After fifteen years of teaching, I've learned that students want to write for authentic audiences. They want to know someone is going to read their work. This assignment provided this exact opportunity for my students to see the power of their own stories, as well as the power of the media. They seized Joan Didion's call, writing about what they once feared and what they "want" to see change in the world.
- Amy Hale, Upper School English Teacher