The Friday Notebook – Sample Program
Tuesday Afternoon Writers – an urban after-school program that builds a sense of voice, identity, and agency for 10- to 13-year-old girls
We meet weekly
in a windowless, ten by ten room, freshly painted lime green. This is the Boys & Girls Club’s audio-visual room – with cameras and wires trailing around the edges. The surrounding walls serve as a green screen.
I drop my two canvas bags, filled with notebooks and materials, and set up a circle of folding metal chairs. Eight girls, ages ten through thirteen, arrive and immediately try to guess what kind of fruit I’ve brought. At the start, participants all want the first piece of fruit, the most colorful pen, the single red booklet in a pile of eight blues and greens. They all want to read first; or they all want to read last. Eight people enter as an ocean, asking, “Can I be special?”
I say they are an ocean. They are also individuals from the start. Some already love writing; others discover joy in writing for the first time. One girl has to speak her words quietly as she writes – which sidetracks another member, who insists on silence. We have many rounds of How can we be fair to everyone?
We begin with each person’s world, each person’s stories.
At one point, a member shoots a look at another member. The receiver reacts. It takes separated conversations to discover that the instigator simply couldn’t figure out what to write. “What do you like to do?” I ask.
“…Play video games,” she mumbles.
“Ah,” I say, “start there. Tell me about it. In your notebook.” Ten minutes later, she shares a moving piece about playing video games with her dad.
Collaborative learning and leadership:
After we hear her piece, I turn to the group: “What do you remember?” A flurry of responses makes it clear – to the writer and to each other – that this writing is strong and memorable. Within a month this girl, the youngest member of our group, takes on a leadership roles, patiently explaining the workshop process to newcomers.
Safety for the writers: