Posted by Amanda Farrar on March 26, 2015
Three years ago, Barrel of Monkeys had the wonderful opportunity to offer our arts education program as part of Super 7, an after-school program for girls at Willa Cather Elementary created by singer-songwriter, composer, and record producer Janelle Monae. Barrel of Monkeys has been excited to continue this project with Super 7 for the past three years. A 12+ session program, as opposed to our typical 6 session program, the teams have been able to add new curricula and create impactful connections with the students. For the first two years, Zoe Schwartz was a teaching artist for this program, but was unable to continue her participation in year three due to other commitments. What follows is Zoe’s lament regarding missing the pleasure of working in the program this year.
Want to support our school programs? An easy and fun way is to attend our fundraiser on Saturday, March 28! The Big Wedding: Everyone Get Married is a big celebration of this story and all the 6,000 stories that will be written this school year!
Zoe, I won’t Never Understand You: A letter to the Super 7 Girls
By Zoe Schwartz
Dear Super 7 Girls*,
I miss you. I miss you soooooo much. After teaching at your program for the last two years, it is weird to not be spending time with you. I remember our first year when there were 10 of you. Two girls for every teacher. It was kind of an amazing way to get to know you. We got to spend so much time hearing each of your stories and seeing your amazing voices develop over our residency. And some of those stories I will never forget: Pretty Skunks, Hello Kitty and the Dog, and that one time Fontayza wrote the line “Zoe, I won’t never understand you.” Me neither, Fontayza. Me neither.
Because we were a small group and such BFFS we even had the chance to make and keep a lot of really funny inside jokes. I know I still smile every time someone mentions burgers and corn! (Sorry other readers- inside joke with my BFFs from Super 7 Girls!)
Then last year, as the 3rd graders turned into very mature 4th graders and you got a new bunch of 3rd graders and the group doubled in size? So exciting. To be able to spend time with the girls I already knew and on top of that get to become BFFs with the new class of Super 7 Girls was incredible. I loved watching the girls I knew really well write even bigger and more developed stories and then turn to help the younger girls remember to include a setting or figure out a way to end their story. Teaching at your program two days a week for 8 weeks meant that I was spending more time with you than some of my friends! That’s crazy!
I really specifically remember this one time last year when we were going over the agreements. (In case you don’t know - Barrel of Monkeys has five agreements that the students go over at the beginning of each class to remind us of the importance of every idea being a good idea, supporting each other, respect, listening, and being safe.) You girls knew them like the back of your Monsters High Backpack. We were struggling as teachers for a way to keep them exciting and interesting to you. That day, Donnell had the great idea to sing them. He had individual girls sing each agreement in a different style. And boy did you guys rock it. I hadn’t seen that much commitment to those agreements since they were probably first written by Monkeys from the Stone Age one million years ago.
Because we had such a long schedule last year, we got to have some really fun writing theme days that aren’t usually in our curriculum. I remember that time we got a letter from an alien and got to save its planet! And that time we made a newspaper! And that time we got to sit around an (imaginary) campfire and tell spooooooky stories. Each of these days you guys brought so much energy and excitement to the room. Even days when you were hungry, angry, or sleepy, you would still find a way to show off your excellent imaginations. I think this was because you felt that Barrel of Monkeys was important. I think you always pulled through because you knew that we were doing something special in that room every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. You knew this was the time you got to be YOU and figure out how to express that to the world. And it was sure incredible to witness that magic for two years in a row.
Like I said earlier, you girls rock and I miss your magical girl power every day!