As a kid I lived with my parents and two sisters in a fairly urban area. I walked to Catholic school each day until we moved to the country in 5th grade. The downtown consisted of a welding shop and a post office big enough for three people and the coke machine.
Our junior high was not its own building, but the far hallway of the high school. It sort of amplified adolescent insecurities to see six years of students trying to act like the class above them. Like many adults looking back, I can say with all honesty these were the worst years of my life.
High school got a little better. I ran cross country and track, made more friends, and somehow joined band as a junior (seriously, who joins band as a junior?). This was also the first time I considered what it would be like to write as a profession.
In college I began writing more and even minored in creative fiction. I never stood out amongst my peers, nor wrote anything I was particularly proud of. I focused more on my education degree and put writing aside for years.
In the real world I faced my demons and returned to junior high as a teacher. I sincerely do my best to make it a positive experience for every student I see. I’m grateful for my days amongst this age and thank them for providing me with so many perspectives.
As a history teacher I discovered two things that shaped me into the writer I am today; I was pretty good at getting an audience to see something they didn’t notice, and I liked hearing the brutally honest voices of my students. This is when I realized I had to try writing again.
I spent years listening to their stories, triumphs and struggles alike. If they trust you, you’ll hear everything from the outcome of weekend baseball tournament to which how cancer took someone from them. Whenever I heard an anecdote I couldn’t shake, it went in the notebook I kept in the front my school bag.
Every kid has something to say if you listen closely. Especially the quiet ones, they usually have the best stories. They’re the ones who taught me it’s more important to listen than to speak.