I have a student who is a snarky, forty-two-year-old philosopher-dreamer in a fifteen-year-old's body. This kid blows my mind. He's only lived in this country for a few years, yet his English writing is astounding. And I'm not talking formal SAT English. I'm talking CREATIVE WRITING.
I try out all sorts of writing assignments with this kid. I give him a list of ten vocabulary words and tell him to write a story. I make CD's of eclectic, wild, and magical music and have him pick ten songs to write about. I give him an envelope containing three random objects and tell him to link them together in a story plot. I email him links to James Jean and Salvador Dali paintings and instruct him to write a stream-of-consciousness piece inspired by his favorite images. I have him watch experimental silent short films and write his own ideas of what possible character dialogue might be. The results are always delightful. I can never guess at what he might write. Sometimes his characters are eerily beautiful aliens in some alternate reality. Other times they are assassins running lawless in Mexico. The one thing I can always count on is his sarcastic, perceptive humor. None of the moral assumptions in the world around us fool this kid. He sees through it all, and he likes to poke fun at it in his writing.
Lately he and I have been passing a story notebook back and forth. He keeps the notebook for a week and writes part of the story. Then he passes it to me, and I write the next part. The first notebook ended up being a science fiction story about an android boy and a crow-magic girl who get into all kinds of trouble while time traveling. Recently, we started a new story. I let him come up with the initial storyline this time. I was floored when I read it. The character he chose to create was a gambling-addict divorcee going through a mid-life crisis. I could not believe the kind of insight this fifteen-year-old kid had into the loneliness and patheticness of troubled adult life. He wrote about sad empty beer cans littering the divorcee's apartment, and about a ridiculous teacup dog the ex had left behind.
The only thing in his writing that reflects his young age: a certain breed of gory, video game violence. Oh, does this kid love video games!
If I have reached a point in my own life where I am capable of having a protege, this kid is it. I spend a lot of time selecting art, music, films, books, essays, and short stories to expose him to. I want the entire world of creative expression to be open to him, because I think he has one of the most beautiful minds I have ever encountered. I can only imagine what he'll be like as an adult if he is already so perceptive and creative at this young age. I daydream about a future moment when he accepts the Pulitzer Prize or ends up on Interpol's most wanted list for orchestrating some villainous computer hacking scheme that throws the entire digital world into beautiful chaos, and I can say with pride, "Yup, that's my student!"