I have 3, maybe 4, posts in my head and they are all kind of inter-related. The essential core is formed by volunteering yesterday and the movie Mad Hot Ballroom.
Volunteering: I spent a few hours yesterday reading my favorite kid's application essays. Writing six essays is pretty challenging for a fifth-grader, and I really, really tried to temper my red pen tendencies. I taught him what I call my "law review" rule: when I used to read "scholarly" articles for LR, or when I read legal memos now, after each sentence I ask "Why?" or "So what?" He really bought into it, which thrilled me.
After really making him work, I wanted to point out what I thought he was doing well. I have insecurity about myself as a writer due to some really harsh criticism from various sources, and he's so little. When I launched into how I thought he was a good writer and not to take my suggestions as criticism, he said to me "Um, you know, the person who writes Harry Potter has to pay someone probably thousands of dollars to edit her writing, so I'm lucky I have you." Holy Splenda tm sweetness, Batman!
Mad Hot Ballroom: As some of you know, in another life (i.e. before law school), I used to swing dance twice a week or more. I have a penchant for dance movies (especially what I call the "dance as biting social commentary" movies - Dirty Dancing, Shall We Dance (NOT the version with J.Lo!), Strictly Ballroom, Footloose, Flashdance, et al.) This movie follows three different NYC public schools 5th grade classes as they take mandatory ballroom dancing classes for 10 weeks, culminating in a city-wide competition.
The scenes of kids taking classes (sometimes, hilarious) are interspersed with the kids talking about life in general and their observations on the opposite sex (even more hilarious.) In one scene, three guys are talking about how girls always "think they are the best and think they are the boss of everything." Word - I know guys in their 30s who would totally get behind that statement.
The rounds of the competition are thrilling, but hard to watch - you know that not all of the kids you've been watching can win. Some kids cry, and it's heartbreaking - how difficult it must be to be a parent and send your child out into the world, knowing that they will have their share of failure. It hit home for me because I've had niggling anxiety that the kid I'm working with won't be accepted to any of the schools to which he's applied.
By the end of the movie, you can see how the kids have grown and changed. Plus, it's entertaining to watch kids cheering hysterically over the foxtrot and the rumba. (Speaking of the rumba, check out the clip of Wilson and Elsamelys dancing in the "Clips" section. I literally clapped my hands - the kids have great connection, and they are comfortable enough to "style." Very, very cool.) This movie is a definite recommend - plus, for those heading home for the holidays, you can watch it with your parents without any, um, "uncomfortable scenes" - if you know what I mean.