Reporter by Jack B., Horseheads High School

I went to the Reporter this Sunday. He was as direct as ever with that unchanging expression. But then again, it really wouldn’t be right if it were anything else.

There were at least 42 people in line that day, or at least the people in front of me, I didn’t pay heed to those behind me. It was a nice day, the birds were chirping, the turbines were spinning, and cars quietly zipped by. That sunday was a normal day and I had nothing special to ask; with nothing pressing on my mind, I turned my attention to other things.

I was vaguely paying attention to the announcement over the loudspeaker, “-protest group are planning to start their monthly “surprise” protest at 1 P.M. to 3 P.M. So customers without silver level tickets should be prepared to be inconvenienced at this time. Thank you.

I heard some of the questions that were asked of him while waiting in line. Typical drabble like, “Will I have a son or a daughter?” or  “Who will win the world cup this year?” There were a couple new kids asking more questions than what is appropriate.Things asked like, “What happens after we die?” or “Is the Easter Bunny real?” or “Why does my uncle touch me so much?” You know, typical new-to-them questions, questions that seem unique to them but to no one else.

Once the line got to me I walked in with my prepared 4 questions. I sat down in the foldable chair and looked at the reporter sitting across from me in his dusty purple card table. I asked, “When is the best time for me to get the groceries?”

He responded, “This Thursday at 2:30 P.M.”

“Who will be the next person I fall in love with?”

“Alice Turbanski,  a woman you will meet in three weeks through an online dating service.”

I wrote down to myself, “Set up online dating account.

“When will I develop the alcoholism you mentioned last week?”

“It will become diagnosable March 16 2061.”

“And finally how do I get over it?”

“Through the support of your soon to be recovering alcoholic friend, your wife, and your twin daughters.”

I wrote down, “Become friends with people showing signs of alcoholism.

I stood up and nodded my head to him, “Thanks.” He nodded his dead eyes back to me. As I left I heard the next person ask an expected question. Something along the lines of, “What the point of it all is?” And I didn’t have to be around to hear the silence after that question. I also didn’t have to be there to hear the gunshot sound afterwards.

After the gunshot I wondered, “Who is it that cleans up the body? Is there a specific job for that? Maybe I’ll ask him next week.

Zachary Duff by Alecia S., Horseheads High School

What I remembered most about Zachary Duff’s funeral was how much it rained. I know, super cliché, right? But that’s what happened. We were an odd sight, the lot of us, dressed all in black and carrying great big umbrellas. Looked like vultures, we did. By we, I mean Avery Ross, Bennett Anderson, and me. Jack Wilde. We were the only ones at the funeral. No one else knew Zach enough to come, not even his own family. The rain was pounding down so loud we almost couldn’t hear the priest as he said a prayer over Zach’s grave. Not that any of us wanted to. But we did, and I guess that’s when it really hit us that Zach was dead. He was dead, at only eighteen years old, and there was nothing to be done about it. I think that was the first time I ever saw Avery cry.
Zach and I had never been real close. It was mostly Avery and Bennett he hung out with. But I loved him like a brother all the same, spending as much time with him as my busy schedule would allow. But every time I saw him, he would be in the happiest mood I saw in a human being. I never knew just how happy a person could be until I met Zach. His blue eyes would always be aglow with mischief, a huge grin on his face, as if seeing me was the best thing that ever happened to him. He dressed real nice too, kept himself tidy with his white button up shirt, dress slacks, fancy sneakers, and his coffee hair combed back. I don’t go that way, but I couldn’t help but notice that Zach was the handsomest man I ever did see.
The day I got the news was just like any other. Avery, Bennett, and I were waiting in the park for Zach after school, just like we always did. Avery was throwing little pebbles in the crystalline lake whilst Bennett and I were trying to calm him down. Avery always threw stuff when he was worried. That was his way of releasing stress, he’d say. But anyways, while we were waiting in the park a nice, fancy, black Lamborghini pulled up. We were all shocked of course; as far as we knew, there were no rich people around. Out of that car stepped a man who looked almost exactly like Zach, just three times older. He asked us our names and we told him of course, thinking he was an FBI agent or something. Turns out, he was just Zach’s dad, the jerk he always told us about. After he was sure we were really who we said we were, Zach’s dad broke the news to us. Zach had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
The next few months were chaotic for me. Zach’s parents practically disowned him after finding out he was going to die. Said they wanted nothing to do with a dead son, that it would blot the family name. I hated them for that. I stayed with Zach as mush as I could, reading him books or helping him out with his homework. Despite everything that was going on, his faith in God and his good attitude remained. I marveled at his strength and his ability to be himself throughout all the pain he had to put up with.
It wasn’t until the last few weeks of his life that Zach began to panic. He’d have fits where he’d thrash around, screaming. I had to hold him down so the doctors could give him pain meds. That’s what they said was happening; the pain would become too much for Zach and he would freak out. But I knew that wasn’t it. Zach was too strong for that! I refused to believe the doctors. After his first fit, Zach never spoke to me. He just stared up at the ceiling every time I came to visit. Bennett was the only one who could get him to talk, or even smile. I felt jealous of course, but I hid it. I couldn’t be selfish; not when Zach was in this state. Avery couldn’t visit. His parents thought he would get depressed if he saw Zach. Zach missed him a lot.
The day Zach died was quiet. The nurses wouldn’t let any of us in his room, telling us it would hurt him more than help. I went into a fit of rage then, yelling at them all to let us though. They stayed calm and insisted that only family could be let in. The three of us were all angry then. We insisted that we were the only family Zach had in the world. Finally, they let us in when Zach heard us and started bawling his eyes out, saying he wanted us to be there. I felt a sharp pang in my chest when I heard and saw him crying, although I didn’t know what it was. Avery climbed into the small hospital bed and wrapped his arms around Zach, shaking slightly as tears began to fall. Bennett and I knelt beside the bed. I gripped one of his hands whilst Bennett rested his head on Zach’s shoulder. Zach’s smile returned for the first time in months and he looked around at us all, grinning from ear to ear with tears streaming down his face. “Thank you,” he’d said. “For staying by me.” And then he just… stopped breathing.
I’m not sure who reacted first. All I remember was feeling empty. I felt no emotions as my eyes rested on Zach’s lifeless form, but I could feel the tears running down my cheeks and dripping onto our still-intertwined hands. Avery was a sobbing mess, clutching Zach to his chest and begging him to come back. Bennett was a lot like me, staring at Zach and Avery with the tears falling down. It was then that the pain in my chest became unbearable and I started sobbing, burying my head in my hands and shaking so violently I almost thought I was having a heart attack.
I visit Zach’s grave whenever I can, leaving daffodils, his favorite flowers. People say that heart break is a girl crying over losing her boyfriend, or a couple breaking up. That may be one way, but it’s not one I’ve ever experienced. True heart break is when you lose someone you love, and you feel so empty and you’ve cried all the tears you could cry. It’s when you’re left with only a shell of who you once were and you can’t get it back. Yeah, I know what heart break is. No one can tell me I don’t, that I’m too young to know.
Zach and I had never been real close. It was mostly Avery and Bennett he hung out with. But I loved him like a brother all the same.

Projects Continued…Part 4

So you’ve made it this far in the “Alternative Endings” projects.  Congrats! This project is designed to make you do some heavy thinking; and once you’ve done the first three steps (which really is more like five), you’re ready to start continuing onto make alternative endings “happen”.

So…what happened? Now that you’ve started to identify what really happened, and what you think happened, it’s time to look at the “facts”.  The “facts” are things that are consistent across the various perspectives and are typically things that are not super debatable: time of day, course of events, who was there, etc.

Now that you’ve done that, it’s time to get imaginative.  There are a couple of ways you can do this.  Do you have a “desired outcome”?  Something you wish would have occurred in a perfect world?  If so, start there!  Think about that outcome and what that “new picture” looks like.  Who was there, what happened, etc.  Create a DSRP chart of this alternative reality, and include a box that it is from your perspective.

Or, maybe there were a lot of different factors that could have changed things.  Instead of focusing on one desired outcome, you can explore the various changes that could have impacted what happened and hypothesize on your outcomes.  You will also create DSRP charts for these options.  Again, include that this is from your perspective.

Once you have your updated DSRP Alternative Endings, consider what’s different from your original charts. Does the perspective have something to do with it? How about the distinctions (some of those facts and sensory items)?  Were there additional systems at play that could have changed the outcome? How were the relationships impacted?

Mull this over for a while.  There are a lot of things to consider before we get deeply into our alternative endings creative expressions, so spend some time on this.  Get weird with the alternatives and consider throwing in new perspectives or relationships along the way. Would your Mom’s presence at the school dance where you had first met your best friend have made a difference? Probably.  Could you and your sister being separated at birth impact your relationship with her and that time you dropped an entire birthday cake on her head? Totally.

Don’t be afraid to explore lots of different alternatives, or just consider one and the things you could have done differently to make that happen.

Share questions or comments with me-I’m always here to help! Email me at mcole@the-leader.com

Project Part 3: Identifying Relationships/Perspectives

“Who?”

Who makes a difference in What is Remembered, and When that happens, our Why can be answered. 

Fun little rhymes aside, identifying others who were a part of the event you are “reimagining” can make a huge difference in the “What”and “Why” of what really happened.

Look at your previous chart from Part 2.  Then, take a highlighter and highlight anything living (or that once was alive) that might have a perspective.

Choose one of these highlighted relationships to start with. Take your situation, and draw a perspective box with their name in. Perspective boxes are just squares with your name in the middle and lines drawn through the middle. (This is next section-and this paragraph) is nearly word for word from the Part 2 post.

Next, begin listing out Distinctions.  If you are familiar with DSRP charting, you can use that system to do this.  If you are not familiar, a regular list with the word “Distinctions” next to it will do.

Distinctions are things that are sensory: what did they see? Hear? Taste? Smell? Feel?

Next, repeat that step with Systems.  A system includes parts and a whole.  For instance, if your dilemma involved your school lunch period, you may list the parts of the lunch experience (food, friends, monitors, table, etc.) and then the whole would be that experience or situation. The other individual’s systems might be different from yours; consider what they may have experienced being a part of something different from yourself.

Chances are, there are several systems at play in your scenario from your perspective.  Emotions are a system. Experiences as a whole are a system. The location can be a system. This can go on and on.  Try breaking it down as much as is useful.  Maybe the lunchroom as a whole should be broken down, but you don’t need every individual piece of the table.  Maybe you do because it is imperative to the situation.  Only you can  decide what’s valuable here. There is no right answer.

Follow up your systems review with Relationships.  Again, break this into what relationship were involved, impacted or relevant to the situation you are creating an alternate ending for.  Sometimes, these relationships involve things or people that are not there at the time of the event.  Sometimes it’s all inanimate objects.  Using their perspective, identify what relationships created or impacted the ending that happened.The other individual’s relationships might also be different from yours; consider what they may have experienced being a part of something different from yourself.

Realistically, identifying the situation using DSRP from someone else’s view point (perspective!) will help you to identify what you think happened.

This is arguably the largest,and most difficult step of this process.  It should be repeated for as many as all and as few as one other perspectives from your own.  I advise you to ask the other people (if you can) about what they remember; it might surprise you!  This step is designed to get you closer to what really happened during that memory and better enable you to identify possibilities for alternative endings.

Good luck and contact me at mcole@the-leader.com with any questions.  I’m here to help!

-Megan

Annual Winter Reflections Event 2017

On March 31, 2017 in the Rotunda of Cowles Hall at Elmira College, we will be hosting our Annual Winter Reflections Event, featuring student works from Elmira, Horseheads, Corning-Painted Post, and Addison School Districts.

Our students, grades 6-12, have worked diligently on their writing portfolios, reflection projects, and on the creation of their “Alternative Endings” projects to present during this event.  Each student will bring something unique and delightfully original to share with our community supporters.

We will be selling tickets to this event, both ahead of time and at the door.  Students will present from 6:00-8:00PM, with general admission beginning at 5:50.  Student performers and volunteers should arrive at 5:30PM.

Tickets for this event will be $5 for adults and $3 for students.  We ask that you take advantage of presale tickets if possible, but we will welcome audience members at the door.

Light refreshments will be available.  We look forward to seeing you all there!

 

Project Part 2: Breaking down reality with perspective

Creating an alternate ending can be challenging, especially when our memories are skewed.  There’s an old saying: “There are three sides to every story.  What you think happened, what I think happened, and what actually happened.” This saying outlines our next component in the project, and DSRP helps us in delving into what “really” happened.

Take your situation, and draw a perspective box with your name in. Perspective boxes are just squares with your name in the middle and lines drawn through the middle. (The Image for this post is a good example!)

Next, begin listing out Distinctions.  If you are familiar with DSRP charting, you can use that system to do this.  If you are not familiar, a regular list with the word “Distinctions” next to it will do.

Distinctions are things that are sensory: what did you see? Hear? Taste? Smell? Feel?

Next, repeat that step with Systems.  A system includes parts and a whole.  For instance, if your dilemma involved your school lunch period, you may list the parts of the lunch experience (food, friends, monitors, table, etc.) and then the whole would be that experience or situation.

Chances are, there are several systems at play in your scenario from your perspective.  Emotions are a system. Experiences as a whole are a system. The location can be a system. This can go on and on.  Try breaking it down as much as is useful.  Maybe the lunchroom as a whole should be broken down, but you don’t need every individual piece of the table.  Maybe you do because it is imperative to the situation.  Only you can  decide what’s valuable here. There is no right answer.

Follow up your systems review with Relationships.  Again, break this into what relationship were involved, impacted or relevant to the situation you are creating an alternate ending for.  Sometimes, these relationships involve things or people that are not there at the time of the event.  Sometimes it’s all inanimate objects.  Using your perspective, identify what relationships created or impacted the ending that happened.

Realistically, identifying the situation using DSRP will help you to identify what you think happened.  In the next step, we’ll begin identifying other perspectives and what else could have happened using DSRP to get closer to what “actually” happened.

Good luck and contact me at mcole@the-leader.com with any questions.  I’m here to help!

-Megan

 

 

Grades 9-12 Winter 2017 Project: Intro & Step 1

If you were a child between 1980-2002 (or possibly before or after), you very well might remember the “Create Your Own Adventure Books”.  These books invited young readers to make choices for characters, deciding which way to turn, who to listen to, what to say, where to go, and more and the seeing the consequences of these actions on the page.

“To turn right, go to page 83.  To learn left,go to page 152.”

For most of us, this was a thrilling experiment seeing what actions led to which consequences.  Unfortunately, real life is never this simple.  In the books, the consequences were planned ahead and actions and reactions clearly matched.  In real life, one small change impacts everything that happens next.  Sometimes, individuals refer to this as “The Butterfly Effect”.  Tons of books and movies have reveled around the concept that by changing a choice we can change the course of items to come, and there’s quite a bit of truth to that.

…But what if we could change something in real life? What kinds of situations could change? What relationships could we build by changing one distinction in our story? How does our perspective change the outcome? If there’s a change in the system, does it change the consequences?

December 2016-March 2017, we will be exploring that concept in depth.  We are going to create our own alternative endings.  That embarrassing thing at school today? Change it. The one time you went there but shouldn’t have? Alter it.

What action could have changed the reaction? What do you wish you’d said? What actually happened at all?

Step 1: To start this project

Pick a situation or problem.  Something that could have/should have had a different outcome in your life.  This should be a real scenario that focuses on your actions and your consequences.  It’s about you.

A word to the wise: if you’ve never done this sort of deep thinking, metacognitive probe into your own mind, I highly encourage you to choose something light. Often when we are too emotionally close to something, it clouds our ability to gain perspective and identify potential consequences or outcomes.

So go get started! Make a list, a chart, an idea/vision board, whatever you need to get thinking about a situation you’d like to change.  That’s step one.  Pick the situation, and get thinking!