This week, Grade 10 students at Lincoln spent three days in an on-campus retreat with facilitators from Bard College’s Institute for Writing and Thinking. Through lots (and lots!) of reading, writing, and conversation, the group explored the subject of attention.
If you asked students about these workshops, they’d tell you about having conversations with the Mona Lisa, scrutinizing photos of a 1983 Scrabble game, and taking walks around campus to notice what delighted them. They’d recall reading aloud together (quickly!, s l o w l y, LOUDLY, and all-at-the-same-time), writing poems as a group, making maps, penning essays in pairs, and joining their English teachers as co-participants in the work.
Groups analyzed excerpts from texts like Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights, Alison Bechdel’s The Secret to Superhuman Strength, Sal Randolph’s The Uses of Art, and Gloria Anzaldua’s “When I Write I Hover.” These texts inspired their own writing – pages and pages in bright yellow notebooks, which, they reported, offered a much-needed break from screens. In this writing, they thought about the concept of meandering, as it pertains to walking, to rivers, and to writing an essay. As facilitator Abby Laber put it, “We explored how you might find yourself by indirection, instead of by trying to hit the nail on the head.”
Students come away from these workshops with notebooks full of ideas and several new strategies for their own writing practice – even with an expanded definition of the word, “essay.” Sharing this experience with their English teachers will no doubt influence their work this spring in classes, and they’ll continue to learn from their time with Bard.