Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Fair View High (Rock The Word)

Stories From The Road
September 18, 2013

Falcons Soar!

The world is different at Fair View High. The kids there are a community or working toward one. There, the so-called couldn't-cut-it/high school rejects congregate to elevate each others connection to education ... to life. The focus isn't on cliques or sports or social standing. At least not by any measure I witnessed during my time there. It's about a human experience. An honest experience. It's about being real. Not to mention they get to use language, well, let's say with fluidity from time to time.

And this is what you need to know right off the rip. My life is now changed from meeting these students.
Yes, my life. And that's a selfish statement, but I'm down with some selfish given that I also changed some lives at Fair View High School.

I had two periods of something like 65-75 kids in total. English classes. Kids who don't always like to write. Kids who don't choose to engage much. Kids who have been counted out.

I said to the students, "I've been counted out more than I've been counted in. I get it. I get how that happens. I'm traveling America meeting with kids like you because I don't think you should be counted out. You matter. You have something to say. And that's what we're gonna do today."

And we did!


Moment of digression.

Not Actual Hoodie

There's a kid in an orange hoodie, we'll call him Mr. Mic because he volunteered to help run Sound for me. And trust me, I needed the help. I'm down to a $147 dollars in my bank account and a few hundred on my credit card. A film crew is a luxury I can't afford, but documenting the process is non-negotiable. These stories have to be seen as well as heard. Especially if I have any hopes of this becoming something bigger.

So back to Mr. Mic. The guy's terrific. Seriously. He's funny and engaged and makes me sound good (wink on the latter). He's also got a story like all the kids at Fair View do. The not so cozy story. Inked into his right forearm is cursive, tattooed lettering. He recounts during our "get to know you" moment how an English teacher at a traditional school reacted when she saw the ink. You know, the book and cover judge thing. But Mr. Mic is solid, you know. I'm sure he's made his mistakes. But he's trying.

Not Mr. Mic's Actual Arm
As for the class, we do an exercise/activity/word fun thingy on the dry erase board. It begins with a series of words. Words generated by the students. Any words. The idea is to excite them into creating writing as a community of storytellers. Words like these in black:

Screen Grab From Actual Clas

Then I take those words and "spit" them back with a narrative I spin on the spot.

 SELECT 1080P from Quality Icon For Best Quality

Without going to far into the logistics of what we do next, the educational components and so on, just know that by the end, we all rock the word!

credit to Shirley Maya

The other thing I need you to get about these teens at Fair View High School is their vocabulary roars at college level. Their curiosity for knowledge is raw and rich and deep. They've got heart when life has most likely tried to stomp, kick and punch it the hell outta them.

They are survivors learning how to live.

They are the reason there is FAT ANGIE. They are the reason for FEELS LIKE HOME and PRIZEFIGHTER EN MI CASA. They are the reason this tour continues.

By the end of the first class, I throw up a prompt on the dry erase. I then tell them, "Writing is freedom. You can do anything -- be anything -- say anything on the page. You are not restricted to someone's idea of what you are/should/must be. You are free."

Unlike traditional high school's, all of these kids take out paper and a pen or pencil.
All of these kids try.
So do I.

A guy in the back of the room, we'll call him Mr. Quiet, catches my eye. He shapes into his over sized baggy white tee in the shoulders and finishes with starched khaki pants. The sparkle of his diamond ear rings catch a glint off the florescent lights. He's a Mexican American I knew growing up. Seen too much and not heard he was special enough.

"Mr. Quiet," I say to him. "I think you have something to say today."

It takes him a beat to realize he's Mr. Quiet.

His eyes drop. His head shakes. I don't push it.

"It's all good, no worries."

I move toward another part of the classroom when I see a hand go up out of my peripheral. It's Mr. Quiet.

"Yes?" I say.

"I'll go. I'll read."

His voice is soft not scary. There's a heart inside that baggy white tee. It's bigger than I can describe and that's kinda my job. Guess you have to see him on video to know.

Mr. Mic and I make our way to the absolute back of the classroom. I set the camera in place and Mr. Mic kneels. Mr. Quiet works hard to read aloud. This is not his comfort zone, but he does it.

When he's done, I grin and ask if I can shake his hand. He takes a moment to test the temperature on my offer and realizes I'm serious. I respect Mr. Quiet more than you know. The guy took a risk. He talked hard and let his voice be heard. And his classmates applauded and it was a fantastic day to be alive!

Through out my time there, I engaged with a variety of races, gender (and gender identified), ages and backgrounds. They all have their own story that exceeds the time for this post. However, their personal stories and creative ones are distinct, necessary, moving and ever emerging.

The world is a hard place for these kids. All of them. The transgendered kids or pregnant teens or social inept or incarcerated -- the misfits and rejects as it has been written. But I would tell you that these are the kids we should never count out. To believe in them, gives us an outside the box perspective of what the face of change can be. While they've got a lot stacked against them, they've got so much going for them.

They are, after all, survivors learning to live.

Thanks for the creativity, laughter and truth, Fair View High School. Your teachers love what you are and want to see you be your own version of your very best. Because you ABSOLUTELY matter!

Stand up and be counted!

YouTube Link of e.E. :
Should The Above Video Not Play


  1. Yes, you are meant to do this! I had a similar experience at an alternative school in northern Virginia, when I was still writing ROGUE. I read the first chapter to a group of high school boys who had been expelled or excluded from their neighborhood schools, and they gave me the encouragement to finish the story and look for a publisher. I remember the first comment after I read the opening in which my bullied protagonist smacks her tormentor with a plastic lunch tray: "That's what's called 'aggravated assault'."

  2. This is now an indelible experience for those kids. They will never forget it. It will always be a part of them. This is where you shine, the way you let them shine. Thank you for bringing your truth to these kids, Trujillo, and for letting them tell theirs.