While I’m off work, I’ve been teaching writing to some girls in Juvie up in Santa Clarita of all places (where we wrote and filmed Switched at Birth) through Writegirl (nonprofit that pairs professional writers with, you know. Girls.) I am using the word ‘teaching’ lightly because 1.) teaching might actually be to antonym of my actual nature and 2.) first we must get them to even care, like, at all. I wouldn’t even call them apathetic. It’s just that there are so many grander things for them to care about than a poem that might or might not be in the shape of a hat. Just a few miles from malls and 900 starbucks and big box stores, and for some of them their old neighborhoods, the girls are kept in a weird time loop that sort of looks like school meets a summer camp meets the ROTC. They are kept on a tight schedule of classes and seem to care only about when they will get out and bobby pins and what shoes I’m wearing and what they could do with my bangs, given the chance. They’re all working towards high school class credits, but there’s also this paralysis because when they do get out, they’re re-entering the exact same world that got them into the place to begin with. Most seem to not have a moral support from parents, many of whom are also in jail, and so they’re left to their own devices. They could change, be better versions of themselves, resist temptation, but also they are seventeen year old CHILDREN and how strong was our resolve then, really? How strong is it even NOW? I want to help them connect words to their helplessness so that they can sort through their thoughts. I want to not say stupid things to them like YOUR WORDS WILL SET YOU FREE! But also I want them to know their words will set them free in their minds, which counts. But first I have to get them to even care, which, I now realize, is the first part of teaching, or even THE part. It is the whole part.
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