PROMPT: Think of multiple sides of a situation. Tell the story from one perspective. Then tell it from the others.
Today, one of my former students brought an assignment to me and asked me to read through it and provide feedback. The assignment required her to tell the same story from three different vantage points, using three different voices. I thought this would be fun so I spent a little extra time on it. This is based on a true story.
"The girls in the book--they have cute outfits and Melinda, she just wears old ones. I really like outfits and clothes and so I could relate," I explained to the class when Miss. L asked us to talk about Melinda's hard times in the book.
I was so glad I thought of something I could say. Maybe other people didn't notice the outfits, but I noticed the outfits. I mean, Melinda didn't have nice sweaters or anything like the Marthas in the book. So I wanted everyone to know. That's why I raised my hand.
I think M and C really liked my comment because they smiled. They always wear cute outfits and they have different purses every day. Sometimes I am not allowed to carry my purse because Mr. O told me I lose focus. It is hard because I like my purse and I like to get out my gum and I like to carry my pencil in there. It's a cute purse and it makes me feel better.
Everyone tells me I can only have three comments, but sometimes I forget. I don't really get to talk too much to my friends. I only see them during this period. Just when I was thinking about lunch, Miss. L asked what "ostracized" meant and T said it meant outcast. That just made me think about lunch again.
"I can relate to Melinda," I told them. I already made my three comments but Miss L. didn't stop me, so I kept going.
"I can understand sometimes what it's like, you know? I know how it feels to be ostracized. Sometimes I want to sit with other people just like Melinda."
I remembered my vocabulary word, ostracized, and I think I used it the right way. Miss L. really liked that. She smiled so big at me.
"Melinda's struggles increase in this section of the Speak. How do the trees she is drawing in art class reflect these struggles?" Miss. L asked the class, as everyone started to flip through their annotations.
I knew the trees represented her state of mind, but the guy I like is sitting across from me and we just started texting. I decided it would be better to act like I was looking for the answer. That way, Miss L won't call on me and I won't say anything stupid in front of B.
"Her tree looks like it was hit by lightening," M said, quoting the page, looking up at me to see if I thought it sounded okay. I smiled back and then looked down.
A few other hands shot up, but K started talking again.
"The girls in the book--they have cute outfits and Melinda, she just wears old ones. I really like outfits and clothes and so I could relate," she blurted out before Miss. L even called on her.
Sometimes she doesn't wait. The aid who goes around with her taps on her desk if she talks too much. Every single day she brings up random things that have nothing to do with class. Miss. L tries to tie it into our discussion, but it flat out doesn't relate at all and then we have to listen to either Miss L or the aid re-explain the rules. "Three comments, K, do you want this to be one of them?" they ask, as if she hasn't heard it a million times.
I glanced back up at M and smiled. She started to giggle and I couldn't help it. I started to giggle too. K is so random sometimes and she doesn't even understand why it's funny.
Then Miss L started walking toward us, glaring at us like we just did the worst thing ever. Before she could open her mouth though, K blurted out again. It was her fourth comment of the day, so I was hoping Miss L would leave me alone and go through the rules again. I turned and looked at her, waiting for something good.
"I can relate to Melinda. I can understand sometimes what it's like. I know how it feels to be ostracized. Sometimes I want to sit with other people just like Melinda."
I couldn't even look up at M. This was going to be bad.
"K, the cafeteria is so busy during lunch. I'm sure there are people in this class who would want to eat with you," Miss L. said before she went on to talk about how each of us goes through moments of feeling left out, and so we need to all look out for each other.
"Continue to look for a few more examples of how the trees represent Melinda," Miss L instructed and then called me and M out into the hall. We couldn't have done anything too bad. All we did was laugh.
"Girls, never--never will you ever exchange laughter at the expense of another human being. Very few things raise my blood pressure, but this sets me on fire," she told us before going on and making us feel even worse. "You will not make fun of her--at least not when I'm around."
Miss L was fuming. She wasn't really yelling, but her face shook. K didn't didn't understand why we were laughing, so it couldn't have been mean. No one else knew. It was just an inside joke for us.
"You will not laugh or giggle at someone else's expense," Miss L whispered, the edges of her lips curling in the process. Then she swallowed and stared at us for what seemed like forever.
"She deserves respect just like you do. You will treat her with respect. Even if she doesn't get what's going on, I do. You will not act like that in my classroom," she declared and then she walked back into the room.
K's hand darted into the air. My stomach twitched a little, and I swallowed. Literally anything could escape her mouth, and I had to be on my toes, ready to validate it, ready to validate her.
Sometimes it was easy to weave her comments into the discussion because they had some inkling of a connection; other times, her tangents sent my brain buzzing a thousand miles an hour as I planned what I should say in response.
"The girls in the book--they have cute outfits and Melinda, she just wears old ones. I really like outfits and clothes and so I could relate," she said before I could even call on her.
"Good, K. You're right. She did have different outfits. She didn't fit with that clan, so she was ostracized from them. What does ostracized mean again," I asked the class.
"Outcast," T responded while I noticed M and C exchanging grins and giggles and eye rolls. C twirled her hair; M chewed on her manicured nails. N, O, P, Q, R and S gazed over in adoration.
A window hovered before me. I could either pretend to ignore it so we could stay in line with the other class, or I could call them out. Square, direct, and risky. They will tell me they didn't mean it, or that they were laughing about something else. They might decide to never listen to another thing again for the whole rest of the year.
Or maybe they would change.
I took a deep breath, then K blurted out again, holding all air in surrender.
"I can relate to Melinda," she began and my heart unraveled bit by bit by bit.
"I can understand sometimes what it's like. I know how it feels to be ostracized. Sometimes I want to sit with other people just like Melinda."
"I'm sure there are people in this class who would want to eat with you," I said to her, wishing so badly my hope would come true. "We all need to look out for each other," I began to explain before I redirected the class back to their books.
As soon as they were all searching again, I jumped through the metaphoric window.
"M and C," I uttered steadily. "M and C, please come out into the hall."