Tag Archive | "casey grubb"

Student Writers Have a Reading of Their Own

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By Claire Walla


Eighth grader Casey Grubb first came to the Jeanette Sarkisian Wagner Teen Writing Workshop because her school counselor suggested it might be something she would enjoy.

She didn’t expect to like it this much.

“I’ve always written, but I’ve never shared it with anyone,” she said. “I was an ‘in the closet writer!’” she added with a laugh.

Though Grubb’s always been prone to drafting short stories and creating her own narratives, she continued, “I’ve never been able to share something so raw.”

This Sunday, after eight months of weekly writing classes, Grubb will be reading an original work aloud along with nearly a dozen other students at the John Jermain Memorial Library, located on West Water Street in Sag Harbor.

“This year, I was trying to give the students the confidence to start sharing their work, to have them believe that their voice has value,” said Emily Weitz, a writer who works part-time for The Express and leads the teen writing workshop each week.

“My role in their lives is somewhere in between teacher and friend,” Weitz explained. “I’m more like their artistic peer, because they’re writers and I’m a writer. We’re all on the same path, and I really look at them like that.”

The class is structured very loosely, often with a prompt or a question at the beginning, inviting all students to enter into discussions before putting pen to paper. While her goal is to get students’ creative juices flowing, Weitz said the bottom line is more simplistic than that: “I just want them to write.”

Weitz said she learned early on that structure is not necessarily conducive to this class.

“I gave them notebooks on the very first day… they were all gone by the second week,” she said with a laugh. In the end, while Weitz helps students edit their pieces, diligent documentation and structured technique are not the point.

“The main goal of this class is to give kids the time and the space to write, to define their own voices without trying to be something that someone else expects them to be,” she explained. “They’re constantly trying to fit into these expectations that their parents or peers have for them, so it’s important for them to have a space where they can write whatever they want, whether it’s a diary entry or a story about a magical world.”

Weitz often starts class by giving students a prompt to stir their creative juices. Such topics have invited students to consider what they carry around in their own bags (and why?) or asked the to wonder what it might be like to be a tourist in their own town.

Eighth grader Alika Esperson said she particularly enjoyed thinking about Sag Harbor from a new perspective.

“I do that more now because I see all the little stuff — the horse from the Five and Ten, or the school with the big clock — and it seems new,” she explained. “I think it’s important every once in a while to look at things differently.”

Throughout the year, students have been adding to an e-zine, called “Moss,” which can be found through the library’s homepage, or by simply going to moss.johnjermain.org. Their first (and only) public reading will take place on Sunday, May 6 at 5 p.m.

“I really appreciate the work that they’ve put in, and the trust and support they have for each other” Weitz added. “The reading is a nice opportunity for them to share their work, but what it’s really about is those many, many weeks when we just came together to write.”

Middle Schoolers Learn How To Be “Upstanders”

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By Claire Walla

“The world is a dangerous place because of the people who stand by the side and do nothing.”

This sentiment — a quote attributed to Albert Einstein – was part of a student presentation shown to Sag Harbor School Board members at a meeting last Wednesday, November 2.

Its message — a call to action — represents the crux of the issue highlighted “The Middle School Tolerance and Anti-Bullying Conference,” a workshop 20 Pierson middle schoolers attended last Wednesday, October 26 at the tail end of Red Ribbon Week.

The event, which was put on by the Holocaust Center in Commack, brought together approximately 200 students from across Long Island, and it placed an emphasis on those aspects of the bullying cycle that extend beyond merely the bully himself and his victim.

Pierson students Casey Grubb, Alex Kamper, Isabelle Peters and Ariana Moustakas — all members of the middle school student council or class representatives — attended this year’s conference — the first Pierson has participated in. And they spoke about it before the school board last week.

“I want to be an upstander,” said Peters, a seventh-grader.

An “upstander,” she clarified, is a student who makes an effort to step in when someone else is being bullied. She said she didn’t want to “just watch kids get bullied, but do something about it.” Her classmates nodded in agreement and declared they too would set out to be upstanders.

Middle School Assistant Principal Barbara Bekermus said she wanted student council members to attend the conference as part of their training in student leadership.

“I felt like student council should really be the leaders and the role models for the school,” she explained.

And until this point, she continued, Pierson’s student council hadn’t been a very large fixture on campus.

“Even though we had leaders in name, they didn’t really fill that role,” she said.

According to teacher Eileen Caulfield — the advisor for the middle school student government and student chaperoned at the workshop — the conference had a positive impact on the students. And perhaps the aspect that made the most impact was the fact they were able to listen to stories told by other students. In addition to describing tales of bullying, four teenage speakers told personal stories that touched on issues like depression, homosexuality and the suicide of a loved one.

“That was hard for them, to listen to these kids who went through these experiences but were able to get to the other side — better,” Caulfield said.

But she said it inspired the group to think of the culture at Pierson Middle School differently.

“When our kids mixed with the other 200 [students], they had to come up with ways for how they could go back to our school and try to prevent this from happening,” said Caulfield.

The students now meet regularly on Fridays with Caulfield during their academic support period and — since October’s conference — they have discussed anti-bullying and tolerance-based measures that can be put in place at Pierson.

The middle school will soon have a “bully box,” where students will be able to place anonymous reports about inappropriate behavior they might witness on campus. Bekermus said one student even organized a “P.S. I Love You” day amongst her friends. The idea was inspired by a speaker at the conference who created the event at her school in memory of her father, who committed suicide.

Bekermus continued to say that the biggest takeaway from the conference is in encouraging bystanders to be “upstanders.”

“Ninety percent of the power lies in the people who are watching it happen,” she noted.

Her hope is that those who attended the conference, those already in positions of student leadership, will take this message to heart.