Well, week one is half over, and we’re off to a good start. I’ve been thinking about the ways that the Summer Institute is like a race: it seems to be equal parts marathon and relay race. I say marathon because it’s a long stretch to the end—no quick sprint one-day workshop here. Right now, in the first week, we’ve just set out from the starting line and our legs are fresh and we are eager to be here. Perhaps the last week, we’ll be a little more tired, but once we cross that finish line, we’ll be exhausted but exhilarated with what we’ve accomplished.
Right, so first week. We’ve made it to Day 4, yay! And There Will Be Food today—a bit of sustenance to keep us going strong. Our first three days, we have set out at a good pace. We’ve had two demonstrations, and I know I (for one) have been writing more these past three days than I did for most of the last semester, stretching those writing muscles. I think some of us feel limber, some perhaps a bit sore from new activity. The best thing I’ve found to ease the pain of sore muscles, though, is to keep going—so on we must go. Although this is often an individual race, we’re really not competing—we are all running alongside one another, and often running as one unit, a team. We all have to do our part to make sure that the Summer Institute is a success, and so far everyone’s legs seem to be up to the challenge, even if many of us are unaccustomed to the activities.
After our nightly breather (also known as sleep), we got going again yesterday with the starting pistol—well, chime, and Mike read to us about leadership and told us we’re all leaders. There was some discussion about t-shirts or a goody bag—all good races have them—and then we’re into Lap One: listening to Michelle read the Log in the style of Dr. Suess. Today she’s passed the baton on to me—this is how it’s like a relay—and I find myself a little nervous starting my leg of the race. But as our fearless team leaders tell us: WE CAN DO THIS. She had us write about a book from our childhood, a prompt I think we all loved. During races, runners near one another often share stories and talk to one another, and Dawn and Theresa both shared stories so sweet and poignant that it made me tear up a little. Jacqueline told the story of how she’d always wrangle How the Grinch Stole Christmas away from her older sister during the holidays by quoting the lines ahead of her. Nathan regaled us with his questions about why there were monkeys in Caps for Sale, and I read why I loved The Secret Garden. I realized that we love these books not just because of their content but because of the memories they evoke when we think about them. Everyone who shared their Quick Write had specific memories and emotions attached to their book. We ended this segment with a little rest and time to refuel.
We took a little longer than anticipated, but rounded the corner only a little behind into the next lap of the day: demonstrations! Jacqueline took the lead on this and totally ran with it, presenting a totally paper-less lesson on Analysis. Here, we entered the college classroom, watched clips from Mad-Men, and learned that Brenda has two husbands—what?? That made us stop dead in our tracks until she clarified, and then we laughed and picked back up the pace. Jacqueline showed us how we can use digital tools to enhance and facilitate collaborative work, and I for one was eager to use Google Docs to enhance my own running…I mean, teaching.
At this phase in the race, we’re getting a feel for our running companions. We learned that Zack—or is it Jack?—is a bit of a prankster, sending texts in the guise of a man named Carl. He’ll probably be that guy who will dump Gatorade on your head at the water stop. Jack, watch out because Jamie will exact her revenge on you before the end of our marathon here. Chris brought the extra long Twizzlers, which he’ll probably use later on to whip us into shape, or make us run, I mean write faster. During a rest break, Jamie was egged on to place the animal crackers in, well…compromising positions. We’re quickly learned who are the runners who spend much of their time in the gutter, and who are the ones laughing at their antics.
After a lap of individual running in the guise of Silent Sustained Writing, we met back up to complete the course for the day with Author’s Chair. Getting in the spirit of running ahead of the pack, Theresa leapt out and read us the start of her historical/family narrative. Nathan read lovely poetry about chairs, and Dawn read a work in progress about her favorite place in
. Jamie passed out our readings for tomorrow—Jack (Zack?) found a little surprise in his packet—and with the finishing chime, we all stopped and were able to rest. One more day of our marathon down, and before we know it, we’ll be at the end of the race, collapsed on the finish line. And like good runners, we’ll already be thinking about our next event. South Africa
QUICK WRITE: List three of your favorite physical activities. Pick one of them and write a story about something that happened while you or someone you know was doing that activity, or what it is about that activity that makes you enjoy it.