Buying Cigarettes for Stuart Ross

He said it would work. Stuart Ross said that if you put a stupid title on anything, it will get read. So, I’m lifting his idea and the title from his latest…

Well, the fifth and final authors’ visit featuring Stuart Ross has come and gone. And I am filled with mixed emotions. On the one hand, I can rest my hat knowing that we have attempted to enrich and enhance the lives of our students by bringing in terrific Canadian artists and writers who (for the most part) connected with youth on some level; and demonstrated that doing what you are passionate about always has its own rewards.

Then there’s the other hand…

I promise this won’t break down into a diatribe, simply because of a lack of time. And for the obvious reason that I alone cannot change this societal shift away from oral story-telling that so desperately languishes in our western digital-based culture. So, why don’t we have more storytelling in school? In society as a whole? Storytelling, and more importantly, story-listening are meeting slow and agonizing death (maybe they already have passed resuscitation levels). I’m finding our youth less and less engaged in the intimate and timely process unless there is the obligatory ‘shock’ quality. Words just can’t be words any longer.

Several times throughout Ross’ performance I surveyed the young group of Grade 9&10 students mainly comprising the audience. As I did, I wondered what were they thinking as Stuart shared his funny, sardonic, engaging, and at times preposterous poetry. A dynamic writer and orator Stuart did an amazing job of keeping their attention. But, in retrospect I wonder, did he really have to? Should he have to? Would he need lasers coming out of his eyes…?

While the act of writing is but one avenue to personal expression, it is not mutually exclusive to this endeavour. Before Stuart was even introduced I felt compelled to remind our students that after many years I have finally learned that writing merely one of a myriad of ways to expression our feelings, moods, and thoughts. Music, visual art, digital art are all necessary in our society. Take what you need from Stuart’s presentation, I advised. But make sure you take the ‘bigger’ picture, too.

Maybe, I expect too much to come from these writer visits. I expect monumental changes to occur. Maybe I need to go back to the premise I had when I started endorsing author visits: 1) purely entertain us; and 2) break up the monotony that is our classroom with teacher at the front (and of course this is so heavily ingrained in western culture that it’s tough to see a way out).

Maybe it’s time to go back to basics.

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