Is it safe to come out of the post-Sandy waters by writing about education issues again? Well, maybe not. Possibly when we are all enjoying the beach (I already bought my new Costco beach chairs and umbrella) again – if there is a beach. With most of my garden probably gone I’m thinking of turning my front lawn into a sandy beach, with a little pond full of salt water. Every so often I’ll toss something in to simulate a wave.
While waiting for the beach season, I have been taking a weekly 5-session 3- hour class in storytelling where each week we all tell a story or two – not made up stories but based on real things which have happened to us. The idea is to shape our story with a beginning, middle and end while using narrative, some dialogue and some scenes – sort of like writing a piece of fiction except that these stories are expected to be true maybe with a light shading when memory fails. Afterward the class and instructor comment with the goal of developing the story into a coherent piece that would be presented in front of an audience.
The day of reckoning has come and we are performing – actually not the right word – telling – our stories to an audience of invited friends and enemies at the “3 of Cups” restaurant on the lower east side. There are four of us left in the class as there have been a few dropouts. These personal stories have been fascinating, especially since I am old enough to be the dad of most of the other members of my class. The stories from the two young ladies (roughly 25) have been enlightening as were the two stories of the two older ladies, both of whom have dropped out after telling their “men are swine” stories (yes they are). The two other guys include a well-known artist from Shanghai and a financial analyst who told some wonderful tales. I was surprised at the stories from the young women and the relative lack of romance in their lives. Certainly an interesting insight given that I don’t get to talk “personal” with women that age. Everyone has been so totally supportive. What began as a whim – a way to kill a few winter weeks – has turned into an enriching experience.
Each week I tried out a different story. My first kiss – a disaster. Another about my first trip to Europe on my own. I tried out a personal “day-of” Sandy story expecting that would be my performance piece. Somehow it didn’t feel right. While it had a beginning and a middle there is still no ending and it was hard to find a punchy closing line.
I really do have a whole lot of stories to tell and at times it was hard making a choice. Just the 35 years in the NYC school system contained a gold mine of material. What I ended up deciding to do was tell the story of how badly I wanted to go into space and basically having given up on the idea of being an astronaut, found the opportunity of a lifetime when NASA announced in the mid-80s they would send a teacher into space. I was one of 16,000 applicants. When the shuttle was due to take off we were in Antigua with the power out and not able to watch the launch. I was thinking about myself being at the top of that rocket as we were sitting on the plane waiting to take off when the captain announced the shuttle had crashed. I was in a state of shock the entire way home. As I went through the mail when we got back, there was a postcard from a friend with the message, “Norm, I’m so sorry you didn’t get to go on the shuttle.”
Well, let me tell you one education thing – that we are in UFT election season with a new group I am associated with called Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) running as the alternative to the Unity Caucus ruling party with Julie Cavanagh as our presidential candidate opposing Michael Mulgrew. I will be visiting all the schools in Rockaway with election leaflets.
Norm blogs away at ednoteson line.com