During my time at UCLA, I have been a member of and then been a board member of the UCLA Writer's Den. Through the organization, I was able to volunteer at a middle school and elementary school in my first year and was eventually able to teach my own fifth-grade class this year.
I started off as a volunteer for a middle school in Watts under a site leader, who eventually became my colleague on the Writer's Den executive board. I later became a regular volunteer at an elementary school located in Westwood and learned the ropes of becoming a creative writing teacher through that site's leader. This year I have had the honor and responsibility of teaching my own class as a site leader, with my own volunteers, and it's one of the most rewarding experiences of my college career.
I began the year with the normal amount of trepidation. Besides feeling excited and major Jess-from-New-Girl vibes, I was generally nervous about being the best teacher for my batch of kids. After a year, I can proudly say that I have a class of entirely intelligent, curious, hilarious and meme-tastic (yes, I do mean that) kiddos.
The biggest project that we have every year, with every volunteering site, is writing short stories that are eventually published in a book. All the students write their own stories and then we collect them to put together in anthologies that are given to the students, their schools, and their teachers.
I faced a great deal of challenges throughout this process, including encouraging my students about their abilities and the physical task of editing the books at the end.
Most of my students were excited by the prospect, but some feared that their writing was not up to par, and others did not wish to write at all. However, I figured out how to address different students concerns.
For the students who were afraid to write, I encouraged them to forget about boxes and boundaries and write about whatever they wanted to. For those who did not wish to write, I asked them to deliver a project so that they would be able to look back and know that they accomplished writing an entire story in a published book.
After the amazing year that I have had with my volunteers, hosting teacher, and students, I will miss them dearly. But, I am glad to have this book, which will be published and bounded soon, to remember them all by.