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Lisa Levine is a teaching artist at Corbett Elementary, and an MFA Candidate in Fiction at The University of Arizona.
Teaching fiction to Jill Carey's second grade class confounds the rules of fiction. In my class' stories, every person has superpowers, pizza is the universal food, and magic is the only ending that counts. The minds of second graders are so able to transition from real to made-up that setting boundaries from one to the other is like building walls over running water - the awareness of real and made-up is fixed in their minds, but their beliefs are still entrenched in a child's world, where the unimaginable is not only imaginable, it's still kind of true. My most memorable instance of realizing that second grade is a time of unmatched creative transformation was when one student read about his imaginary character, who bore a strong resemblance to a certain ubiquitous character of wizard and literary fame - the class called him out on using someone else's character. "He's Harry Potter," one girl said, and this boy blushed and hid a little behind his story as he left the front of the room. "Yes," he said. "But he's mine too."
Lisa Levine is an MFA candidate in fiction at the University of Arizona, and writer-in-residence at Sam Hughes Elementary School.
In a Difference and Equality brown bag this fall, two writers brought up the issue of silence. One of the writers described an entire undergraduate class in which the students analyzed a novel (whose title I have forgotten, I'm sorry to admit) known for being, among other things, about the themes of race and identity. The students, she said, got through a full hour of discussion in which no one ever mentioned the subject. In an era where the classroom is a relatively safe place to study the murky waters of race and identity, why aren't students willing to drink?