I never wanted to be a teacher. I didn’t think I would be any good at it. So taking this class was a step out of my comfort zone from Day One. And I know my nerves showed. They still show. I wasn’t sure how to interact with the Shortridge kids. They range from age 12-18, and I was 12 a decade ago. But it’s not just the age—it’s the environment. I don’t know what it’s like to go to a public school in the city with kids whose futures are determined by the color of their skin. I never experienced that.

So when I walked into the classroom and the kids were rowdy and didn’t want to jump into the prompts we prepared for them, I felt lost. Getting those kids to write wasn’t easy. Some of them are not there to write. Some are there for the social scene. Even the ones who come to write don’t always want to write. So what do you do? Well, I converse with them.

To be honest, I don’t mind when we get into conversations and stray from the writing. And that’s because my favorite part about working with the Shortridge kids is not writing with them. It’s not watching them produce writing, a piece they’re proud of. Of course when they create something meaningful and important to them, I feel proud and accomplished. But I believe I can make a different impact on these kids. My favorite part is the conversations I have with them. No, I don’t always know how to react or what to say to these kids who live a life so different from my own. But when we get to talking about religion or sexuality or gender, I’m all in. I like forcing these kids to question why they think an activity is a “man’s” sport. I like discussing why they identify as bi-sexual and how they can understand their identity through writing. I like defining how I understand spiritually and religion and encouraging them to find their own path.

No, I might not be the best teacher. I might not feel I understand where they come from. I might not know what to say all the time. But I love feeling like I’m engaging in conversations they’re afraid to have with others. Or ones they just don’t know how to vocalize. I love informing them of ideas I believe and challenging the ideas they have. I love sharing my life experiences in the hopes they can lead students to positive ones of their own.

Nicole Lennon is a senior English Creative Writing major.