About five or six years ago, I presented a workshop during an annual school event to middle school students who were selected to come up to the high school for the day. As my actual students had written, produced, directed, and edited documentary shorts that the little ones would be watching later (“Is it appropriate for a twelve year old to watch a documentary on piercings that starts with the extreme close-up of a nipple?” I wondered – probably too late. But then I thought, “Fuck it; it’s a male nipple. The kids will be fine.”), I did an activity about how to turn a defining moment each kid has experienced into a documentary film.
I had never taught such little people before, and I was actually terrified. I was scared I wouldn’t know what to say to them or that I’d make jokes they wouldn’t get or that they would just sit there and stare at me – like some of my actual students do, though after ten minutes, that just feels weird – but the group who toddled up to the high school were kids who had entered and won an essay contest to attend the event. They wanted to be there. They liked school. And they all raised their hands immediately whenever I so much as spoke a sentence that mildly ended with an upwards question-like inflection.