Seniors explore the ‘corners of their lives’ in Creative Writing
Creative Writing class provides a comfortable environment for seniors to express their inner thoughts and feelings.
February 20, 2015
“In an English class, your teacher tells you that you need to write formal sentences and it all needs to end properly. You can’t write about everything you want to write about,” said Haykouhi Kouyumjian. “But in Creative Writing you can be, well, creative. You can use any format and just let all your emotions out.”
Creative Writing is an English elective that many underclassmen patiently wait three years to finally experience during their senior year. Taught by English teacher Maral Guarino, the course is designed to help students improve their interpretive reading and writing skills, as well as to develop techniques to effectively express their opinions.
Due to the fact that educational funding does not allow for two sections of the class, it is a senior privilege. Guarino agrees with the fact that the class should only be offered to seniors because she believes that students need the writing forum to alleviate and deal with the stress that comes along with senior year.
Students say they sign up for the class because of their love for writing or because of positive comments they’ve heard about the class. “I joined Creative Writing because I saw it on a television show Awkward on MTV. I liked the way they used the English language to express how they feel rather than another person telling them ‘you should write this and that,’” said Mariel Lansangan. “It gave more freedom to write.”
Students enjoy being able to voice their opinions and feelings in their writing without the fear of being “right or wrong.” For instance, a memorable task for students like Lansangan and Daryl Paras was the autobiography assignment which was given at the beginning of the school year in order for Guarino to get to better know her students.
Students had to write their own autobiography which consisted of 12 chapters. They were given specific topics for 11 of the chapters. For each one of the chapters, students focused on something different; for example, they wrote about what they called home or about someone special to them. “As for Chapter Twelve, we were able to choose to write anything we wanted,” Paras said. “I spent the most time on that and was able to really put myself into everything I wrote.”
“I think that was the most powerful piece for them so far because it forces them to look into the corners of their lives that they normally don’t look into. Sometimes it’s in those corners that we find the truth and who we are,” Guarino said. “I think the reason why so many students responded so positively to that is because it helped them find their place.”
I think that was the most powerful piece for them so far because it forces them to look into the corners of their lives that they normally don’t look into. Sometimes it’s in those corners that we find the truth and who we are”
— Maral Guarino
The assignment stood out to Lansangan because of the positive response she unexpectedly received. When she got her autobiography back she saw that Guarino wrote encouraging notes on each chapter. Lansangan was especially moved when Guarino took the time to comment on a chapter that focused on an unhappy topic.
“It’s the kind of class where I feel like if I don’t connect to them then it loses the meaning of their writing. I feel like our writing doesn’t live in a vacuum. It lives in our lives. So their writing really lives in my life. Everything they write affects me,” Guarino said. “My comments come from my heart and how I feel about what they’re saying and how I want them to think about things they’re writing. I really do read their writing and I feel like for them to get any meaning out of my response it has to be genuine.”
For Kouyumjian, the assignment that made the deepest impression on her was one in which the students had to write about a Him or a Her in their life. Although she was originally contemplating whether to write about either her grandma or an ex-boyfriend, she ultimately combined them and wrote about them together because both invoked such deep emotions. Kouyumjian fondly recollects the experience because it felt like a therapy session. She felt a heavy burden lifted from her shoulders after writing the piece.
Iren Baghdasaryan, on the hand, thought that the most memorable assignment called reader’s theatre. Each student was given a certain character and a scenario and instructed to write a script with a partner. For instance, students were paired as police and driver or pilot and plane hijacker. Baghdasaryan loved how creative and funny the whole class was and how some pairs created a huge twist and used props to act out their script.
Similar to this assignment, an enormous aspect of Creative Writing is sharing one’s thoughts to an audience. Initially, Kouyumjian, Lansangan, Baghdasaryan and Paras were among the majority of students who did not feel comfortable presenting their writing to others.
“My favorite part is when everyone reads out their stuff,” Kouyumjian said. “The first time I presented I thought, ‘I can’t do this.’ All the air was closing in and I couldn’t see my paper, but then after a while, even though I still get scared sometimes, I tell myself it’s okay and I get done with it. It’s scary but you get it off your chest and even if you cry no one really judges you. They sympathize and you can sympathize with other people.“
Baghdasaryan also was originally hesitant and remembers that in the beginning everyone would try to skip their turn. However, she said, “After a while we kind of formed this bond. Everyone just gets the feel of the class and we’re all honest. We say anything and everything, and aren’t afraid to get emotional, and believe me, we are an emotional bunch.”
After a while we kind of formed this bond. Everyone just gets the feel of the class and we’re all honest. We say anything and everything, and aren’t afraid to get emotional, and believe me, we are an emotional bunch”
— Irene Baghdasryan
Guarino acknowledges the fact that her students are comfortable in her classroom and tries to maintain the honest and trustworthy atmosphere. “The most important thing is to have everyone feel comfortable and so by trying to create a place that’s safe where we’re all speaking from a place of vulnerability, we’re all in it together,” she said. “I’m trying not to criticize or judge and I think I’ve made it clear to my students that this is not a place of judgement. This is a place of truth.”
Baghdasaryan and Paras both agree that the class is unlike any other and consider it to be their favorite part of the school day. “Don’t be scared or hold back,” advises Kouyumjian to upcoming seniors who are interested in taking the class, “Just write.”