Classroom of the Month: Lower School Educators at The Wellington School in Columbus, Ohio

Long before a new school year begins, teachers are busy preparing their curriculum and classrooms. How do educators prepare themselves to connect with a new crop of students? For one inventive approach, we turn to The Wellington School — a co-ed independent college preparatory day school serving preschool through 12th grade in Columbus, Ohio — which recently added Six-Word Memoirs to their Lower School faculty planning sessions.

Their reason for using the six-word tool: to help teachers focus on each individual child as well as to refocus on their own purpose as educators. “Writing our Six-Word Memoirs has provided the moment to just stop and think or reflect, which can easily get lost in all else that is required of teachers in August,” says Jill Webb, Head of Lower School.

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Six Words Fresh Off the Boat: Stories of Immigration, Identity & Coming to America

Six Words Fresh Off the Boat: Stories of Immigration, Identity, and Coming to America is the ninth book in the bestselling Six-Word Memoir series, and it brings us all the way back to the start of the project as we ask: Who are we as a nation? How does a family’s journey to America tell the story of this country as a whole? These questions have been answered, six words at a time (and for the first time in a Six Word book a number of backstories as well), by recent immigrants and refugees, by descendants of the Mayflower and those brought by force on slave ships, and by every generation in between. As always, we’ve invited a handful of celebrities to share their stories, creating a book with a mix of Emmy, Oscar, and Pulitzer Prize winners alongside hundreds of people who have never before been published—many members of this community of storytellers.

Six Words Fresh Off the Boat was conceived before the election of the forty-fifth president of the United States. The unsettling political climate for immigrants that he has ushered in has made the discussions that follow from these stories more vital than ever.

More then a decade after we launched SMITH Mag and Six-Word Memoirs this community is the reason that we continue to do what we do. Your support and enthusiasm for the website — and the books that make it possible to keep it going — means the world to us. Your devotion fuels ours.

We hope you will join us in spreading the word about a timely and unique book, one we are so proud to publish in September 2017. Please encourage friends and family to buy this book soon as the first few weeks of sales are vital to a book’s success. Need a gift for a teacher? Six Words Fresh Off the Boat works quite well in a classroom (and we even have a free teacher’s guide) —or anywhere else people gather to share stories.

Here are the tools you need to spread the word:

Buy the book: bit.ly/fotbsix

Watch our video: 

Post it: on Twitter: @sixwords | Facebook: six-word memoirs |
Instagram: six.word.memoirs

Use the tag #sixwordsFOTB & post your six own words on coming to America with the video clip or your own photo holding up your words.

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Top Pinnacle Moments in Six Words


Whether or not you witnessed the monumental total solar eclipse on August 21st (with proper eye protection, of course!), our lives are filled with pivotal moments that impact us forever. For SixContest#103, we asked about your pinnacle moments in six words. It’s no surprise that becoming a parent was an apex for many (“Would you like to hold her?”—Oh_Skinny, May 1997; his juxtaposed memoir reveals a deeper story: “You are unable to have children.” July 1985). A few life-changing moments show us that low points come with summits (“Releasing my son from all misery.” —JAD Backstory: “Breathing tubes removed.”). The vast majority of your stories highlighted personal milestones (“First time saying ‘I’m an artist.’” —Raven_OKeefe ) and epic events (“Met hero last day of 39.” —@BeyondHamilton).

Without further ado, here are the Top Six Pinnacle Moments:

6. “Land ho! Apparently, celestial navigation works.” –catsmeow

5. “Mom beat cancer. Time matters now.” –Room203

4. “Singing at Davies Symphony Hall 2016.” –MissIncongnito

3. “I totally made David Duchovny laugh.” —@harrislynn

2.  “Getting published for the first time.” —Neesha101

And finally, the six words are a culminating point for anyone:

1. “Daughter ran. Fast. Olympic gold. Tears.” –@NancyJorgensen

Congratulations, @NancyJorgensen and thanks to everyone who joined in the fun! Whether in our SixContests, on FacebookInstagramTwitterTumblr or at sixwordmemoirs.com—keep on Sixing!

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Memoirist of the Month—September 2017: Janna King

Social media can be really mean. The Six-Word Memoirs community is exactly the opposite—kind, interested and encouraging.”


Name:
 Janna King
Place: Los Angeles, California
SMITH Member Since: July 2013

Janna King’s entries in our SixContests are crowd favorites. Her Six Words for relieving stress? “Bourbon with a splash of funk.” With nearly 300 memoirs since joining us in 2013 as BigMammaPetunia, her tales of modern day life are forthright (“Life’s chaos has stolen my sleep.”) and often entertaining (“Right text. Wrong recipient. Big trouble.”). Through it all, her love of family (“Lucky my kids made me Mom.”) and words reign supreme (“My writing addiction spawned mental hangover.”) Congratulations to Janna King as our Memoirist of the Month for September 2017. Discover what makes her a go-getter as she answers our Six Questions:

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Top Six-Word Summer of Love Stories

The legendary “Summer of Love” in 1967 was a time of self-expression, experimentation, and questioning conventional norms. For SixContest#102 we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of this defining era with your stories of liberation and nonconformity in exactly six words. You shared amusing observations (“Must have been a hot summer…”—Silken, with the backstory “Was born 9 months later”), tales of meaningful realizations (“Mistakenly believed we were invincible, immortal.” —rsqdogsmom) and a number of stories complemented with photos that took us back (“He was cool. I was hot.” —@oopsalittle). Introducing the Top Six “Summer of Love”-inspired memoirs:

6. “I can love whom I love.” —JoC.

5. “The sun blushed our naked bodies.” —@CoherentGuile

4. “Then: spiritual journeys. Now: therapeutic microdosing.” —Jordana

3. “His name forgotten, but his touch . . .” —wonderactivist

2. “Olfactory flashback: her scent was patchouli.” —tagishcharley

And finally, the Summer of Love story that fits past, present or future:

1. “Lost: innocence. If found, be gentle.” —canadafreeze

Special thanks to zsuzsu for suggesting this timely contest and submitting many of her own first-hand accounts with compelling backstories. Be sure to read her vivid vignettes, including this tale of teenage rebellion: “I wasn’t your typical ‘Sweet Sixteen.’”

Congratulations, canadafreeze and thanks to everyone who joined in the fun! Whether in our SixContests, on FacebookInstagramTwitterTumblr or at sixwordmemoirs.com—keep on Sixing!

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Memoirist of the Month—August 2017: Krista Cox

“Six Words is a place that keeps me writing, but more importantly, keeps me intrigued and amazed.”

Name: Krista Cox
Place: Alma, Nebraska
SMITH Member Since: October 2014

When Krista Cox won our SixContest, “First Six Words of Your Novel,” we discovered that her connection to Six-Word Memoirs extends beyond our site and into the classroom (Classroom Of The Month: Krista Cox’s Creative Writing Class At Alma Public School). Although the demands of teaching means she posts less often during the school year, Krista is an eloquent Sixer (“Their spirits hovered over antiquated ”) with more than 300 memoirs and SixContest entries since joining us as SouthPorch in 2014. She is masterful with metaphors (“Drunk on possibility. Hungover on reality.”) and skilled at symbolism (“Syrians and monarchs: flight to rebirth.”). Our congratulations to Krista Cox as our Memoirist of the Month for August 2017. Learn what makes her memoirs so vivid as she answers our Six Questions:

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Classroom of the Month: 12th Grade “Legacy Class” at Charles R. Drew Charter School in Atlanta, Georgia

College acceptances for Charles R. Drew Charter School’s Legacy Class

“There will never be a first graduating class again. They have trailblazed. They are setting the path. They will establish many of the traditions that will continue on for years to come.”
—Peter McKnight, Principal of the Drew Charter School Senior Academy

Education and opportunity are essential to breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty. What began as neighborhood revitalization has become a cradle-to-college pipeline with the inaugural graduating class of Charles R. Drew Charter School as its pioneers. Drew Charter in Atlanta, Georgia, was founded in 2000 as the first charter school in the Atlanta Public School System through a groundbreaking partnership that included the East Lake Foundation and other community stakeholders. With the goal of closing the achievement gap in education, Drew Charter has become a national model for educational success. This remarkable story extends beyond the classroom and plays a central role in Purpose Built Communities—a nonprofit whose vision “guides neighborhood revitalization by creating pathways out of poverty for the lowest-income residents, and building strong, economically diverse communities.”

Drew’s first group of high school seniors are fittingly known as the Legacy Class because they would make history by bringing the school’s mission to fruition. As these young students worked diligently to complete high school and prepare for college, we suggested Six-Word Memoirs as a useful tool to help them reflect on their journeys and their achievements, both academically and personally [Editor’s Note: Shauna Greene, Six-Word Memoirs Associate Editor and author of this post, is a Drew parent.]. The timing was serendipity—Drew’s graduation committee was looking for a way to showcase students in their upcoming commencement ceremony. Rachel Kaney, Drew’s Director of College and Career Readiness, believed that Six Words would add value to the senior class experience.

Kaney and 12th grade Social Studies teacher Barbara Manwell collaborated on a lesson plan, which began by reviewing the general idea of a memoir and introduced the concept of storytelling in six words. Students were presented with examples of relevant Six-Word Memoirs, including “Be a doer, not a dreamer.” by Emmy-award winning writer Shonda Rhimes—featured in our 2015 book, The Best Advice in Six Words (a six-word sentiment which captures the essence of her celebrated Dartmouth College commencement speech). Then Kaney and Manwell got to the heart of the assignment by posing the question: “Who are you as a result of the community who shaped you?” Students were able to define community for themselves, whether that meant their Drew community or extended to family and other personal networks.

Brainstorming guided students who were struggling to narrow their personal narratives to six words. Starting with, “How would you describe yourself?” students then added people or things that were important to them. The instructors wanted students to identify characteristics about themselves and who or what was meaningful, but Kaney cautioned, “we didn’t want them to end up with six adjectives—the important part is to tell a story.”

Students found the project to be meaningful and fun. Instead of rushing to pick six words and be done, they took ownership of crafting their Six-Word Memoirs—particularly when they realized their six words would be presented at graduation. Some students wanted to keep their memoirs private until graduation day, while others wanted feedback from classmates. Kaney enjoyed watching them collaborate: “They went peer-to-peer, asking ‘Well, who do you think I am?’ which gave them a perspective about how others see them, and helped them recognize, ‘Yes, I really am energetic, or honest, or things like dance or engineering really define me.’”

There are nearly 90 Six-Word Memoirs in this collection, one from each member of the Legacy Class. Each memoir showed insight and maturity, capturing some aspect of the students’ personality or distinguishing experience. For some that meant redefining expectations (“Overcoming the doubters, I made it.”—Tatynia Long) and asserting their place in the world (“Trilingual smile with a global reach.”—Zora Ponder-Jones), or realizing that struggles are surmountable (“Ups, downs, to cap and gown.”—Brandon Miller) and the paths they blaze today open doors for others tomorrow (“Role model first; my success second.”—Tyler Sturdivant).

Kaney reflects on what a valuable tool Six-Word Memoirs were for the graduation ceremony: “The project enabled personalities to shine in a ceremony that often times doesn’t capture the individuality of students. Graduation is such an exciting time and the ceremony is typically about celebrating the collective. Six-Word Memoirs made it very personal—more than just announcing each name; by featuring each student’s memoir as he or she crossed the stage, it made it really special for every graduate. Six Words provided that window of opportunity to showcase each student in a succinct and meaningful way.”

Although it’s the end of an era known as high school for these students, this milestone is simply a continuation along their cradle-to-college path. We salute the young men and women of Drew’s Legacy class. Six-Word Memoirs is honored to help them preserve their stories and celebrate their achievements.

Drew Charter School’s 12th grade Legacy Class on graduation day

Teachers! Since we first launched the Six-Word Memoir project, educators across the spectrum have found Six Words to be a terrific classroom assignment and catalyst for self-expression. At our Six in Schools section we celebrate students’ work from classrooms around the world. Contact us (concierge AT smithmag DOT net) if you would like a copy of our free teacher’s guide.

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Delivered: Your Top Six Care Packages

Is there a better remedy for homesickness than something treasured from back home? For SixContest #101, we asked what you’d like to give or receive in your #SixWordCarePackage. The tradition that began as post-war relief has become a mainstay of summer camps and college campuses—care packages are especially valued by service members during their extended stints away from home (“A care package still bearing fruit.” —G_Austin*). Being away from loved ones reminds us what we value most (“Audio of our family’s uncontrollable laughter.” —@hikealot2014), and who doesn’t like being reminded that out-of-sight doesn’t mean out-of-mind (“A handwritten note, a cherished treasure.” —caralongwrites)?

Introducing our Top Six—sent special delivery:

6. “A family photo where everyone’s smiling.” —l8leigh

5. “Grandmom’s homemade pizzelles… arriving miraculously unbroken.” —liberata

4. “Sticky notes, quotes, and Nebraska leaves.” —SouthPorch

3. “Deployed to Afghanistan? Box of Reese’s.” —@mdewerth

2. “Apples have always tasted like home.” —knick-knack*

And the present that becomes priceless when you have to do without:

1. “Can you package a hot shower?” —catsmeow

*Check out the accompanying backstories—these writers show us that a simple care package can be a gift that lasts a lifetime.

Congratulations, catsmeowand thanks to everyone who joined in the fun! Whether in our SixContests, on FacebookInstagramTwitterTumblr or at sixwordmemoirs.com—keep on Sixing!

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Memoirist of the Month—July 2017: Allie Campbell

“Six-Word Memoirs has served as a way to document my successes and pitfalls. My sixes have become plot points on a chart of thoughts.”

Name: Alexandria “Allie” Campbell
Place: New Jersey
SMITH Member Since: March 2012

When Allie Campbell joined Six-Word Memoirs in 2012, her first memoir was a proclamation to her writer’s heart: “I will get my Pulitzer Prize.” Quite a claim for a rising teen, yet it wasn’t meant as an arrogant declaration; instead, those six words reflect her passion for writing (“Wielding my keyboard like a sword”) and commitment to this lifelong endeavor (“Writing is where I reinvent everything”). Posting as TheAngstyPoet with nearly two thousand memoirs to date, she has grown from a trepidatious teen into a confident adult (“Teenage me boiled, now I simmer.”). And her Six Words of advice published in our 2015 book, The Best Advice in Six Words, are as fitting for a student as anyone trying to realize their dreams: “Grit your teeth, do your homework.” Congratulations to Allie Campbell as our Memoirist of the Month for July 2017. Learn more about this memoirist who is more poet than angsty as she answers our Six Questions:

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Top Six-Word Letters to Our Bodies

No matter how society may dictate body image, ultimately we get to define ourselves. For SixContest #100—our centennial prompt—Six Words teamed up with the creators of the upcoming book of essays, My Body, My Words (Spring 2018), and asked you to write a letter to your body in just six words. Our bodies serve as personal journals, reflecting our ordeals (‘Tiny’ frames can have hidden pain.” —@TheSquibbler), our triumphs (“Two babies are your greatest testimonial.” —Kharis), and how we change over time (“Mind more flexible. Skin less elastic.” —SouthPorch). Whether embracing our physical form (“Don’t be afraid of soft parts.” —@natdnapo) or applauding all-around perseverance (“Bumpy ride but I’m still grateful.” —@dizzygirlwrite3), there was no limit to the body of work presented in nearly 800 entries​ on SixWordMemoirs.com and across our social channels​!​ Our Top 6 winners will be included among a group of longer essays in the forthcoming ​My Body, My Words:

6. “My physical strength keeps surprising me.” —maripose

5. “Wrinkles narrate my body of work.” —FKA_Liza

4. “Dear marrow: I’ll never forgive you.” —@KathrynDiPasqua

3. “These scars represent my many blessings.” —brokenlens

2. “I’m taking away your self-destruct button” —@Sammie_Grace

And the story that landed in the top spot is…

1. “Dear body: don’t act your age.” —canadafreeze

Congratulations to our Top Six contributors on being selected for publication and thanks to everyone who joined in the fun! Whether in our SixContests, on FacebookInstagramTwitterTumblr or at sixwordmemoirs.com—keep on Sixing!

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