I figured out last week that it wasn’t going to work. In writing workshops I have often used an exercise with three groups writing dialog to tell the story of Jack and Jill going up the hill to fetch a pail of water. In one group Jack and Jill are pre-schoolers. In another group Jack and Jill are an old couple who have been married for 50 years. In the last group Jack and Jill are a brother and sister who fight all the time.
During the week I thought, Okay. It’s the task of writing that puts them off. They all know how to talk! My kids in Tembisa had fun with dramas. We’ll do this as three little dramas and afterwards I’ll tell them, “Now write it down!”
I called for two volunteers, a boy and a girl. No one raised a hand so the first two who fidgeted in their seats got called on.
“You are Jack and you are Jill,” I said, putting my hands on one head then the other. “You are little children, practically babies, and you want water. What do you say?” Could I get them to open their mouths? No!
Mamochabo, the girl, finally mumbled, “Jack, get me some water.” Not exactly a pre-schooler request, but I was prepared to abandon that part of the exercise. Unfortunately, Jack couldn’t think of a thing to reply.
Okay… I had planned to call up a different pair and tell them they were an old couple and then a third pair, but there was obviously no point in doing that.
I sent them to their seats and started on Plan C. On the board I wrote, ‘Jill said, “Jack get me some water.”’ I turned to the class. “Now, anybody, what does Jack say?” Bit by bit we got something down. In the second class (where I went straight to plan C) we had quite a lively dialog going.
These three Saturdays at RoseAct have been challenging—for me and for them. It’s there inside—I know it is—but they have never had mothers who told them stories and asked what they thought would happen next. They have been encouraged to tell the truth and not to make anything up. Their games consist of skills, not imagination. My brain is already asking, how could I do it differently next time?