It’s been a trying year for everyone, said Islander Middle School (IMS) teacher Melissa Gaffney, who’s been seeing students unleash their creativity as an outlet for what’s been happening around them during the pandemic.
A host of IMS students are stretching their limits beyond what’s required of them each day during classes. Enter the school’s extracurricular Creative Writing Club, which has students stepping outside of the classroom realm and bringing their own vision to life. They’re connecting with each other and sharing their love of writing along the way.
Motivation and inspiration have flowed freely in Gaffney’s direction.
“I think that it’s been so great to see students find their own voice and really express their own voice,” said Gaffney, the club’s adult advisor.
Added club co-creator and eighth-grader Anthony Wang: “The six-hour Zoom classes have everyone a bit worn out, especially students like us who have opted to spend the rest of the year online. Being able to plug in a creative outlet and recharge is something that’s helpful for everyone.”
Wang hatched the idea for the club a couple months ago and brought fellow IMS eighth-grader Regina Lee on board as co-creator. They contacted IMS counselor Jayna Dash, who organizes after-school programs, and she connected them with Gaffney to help bring the idea to fruition.
Lee said that Wang’s vision was ambitious and she wanted in.
“The reason I wanted to participate in creating this club was because it was a good opportunity to gain more knowledge and the vision was pretty unique. Instead of having a club where there’s a rigid schedule, it’s much more flexible to work with and gives the members much more freedom,” Lee said.
Along with teaching sixth-grade language arts and social studies, Gaffney leads a sixth-grade creative writing class as an elective. She’s impressed that the club came about organically through the students’ desires to not only write, but share techniques, provide feedback and more.
“Sometimes sharing — especially creative writing — can be a really personal thing. They, in their own spare time, are posting and critiquing and asking for advice from their peers, and I just think that’s so cool,” said Gaffney, adding that Wang leads the weekly meetings with about six to eight regular members, and about 15 students have attended at least one meeting.
The bulk of the writing treads in the genres of what they’re reading: fantasy and realistic fiction, Gaffney said.
In school, Wang said that students are often introduced to persuasive, argumentative and informational essay writing, but not much creative writing is covered. Wang co-created the club because he wanted students to go beyond analyzing in class what others have written and wedge themselves into their own writer’s chairs to commence their journey of words and ideas.
“Finding a community that’s this passionate about writing and thinking outside the box has been incredibly gratifying and liberating for me. It’s great fun to be able to lead a group of writers with clear-cut goals and help each other improve our craft,” he said.
According to several members on a group document, they find the club to be a supportive and honest place to share their writing, they’ve learned about new writing concepts during each meeting and have gained confidence while delving into their writing.
Through her involvement with the club, the doors of writing freedom have been unlocked for Lee.
“The club helps me relax and just write whatever I feel like, no obligations attached. COVID has had an impact on our lives, but I feel like the club helps the thought that even through the pandemic, we can still get things done and do things we love to do,” she said.