(16 of 40) Curriculum Night

Yesterday I went to Curriculum Night at my youngest daughter's middle school. Her first period class is Spanish, and so for 12 minutes I sat at Emma's desk and listened to her very vivacious (and very young) Spanish teacher. On the white board directly in front of me was a poster explaining the two types of "to be" in Spanish: Estar, meaning how or where one is; and Ser, meaning who or what one is. Below the explanation, a cartoon-figure man was saying, "Coma estas?" and a cartoon-figure woman was saying, "Yo soy bellisimo." (How are you, and I'm beautiful.)

Aside from the verisimilitude of the couple's inability to communicate, the estar and ser really grabbed my attention. In my Creative Nonfiction class on Monday, we did a setting exercise and, afterward, I attempted to point out how setting reveals character. It matters whether your grandmother has a $25 garlic press, or a full wine rack, or an old-fashioned, stove-top coffee percolator. If you peek out your stepfather's kitchen window and see special solar light garden gnomes, well, that's one kind of stepfather. The one with a 1962 Ford pickup up on blocks -- that's a different kind.

But another thing I tried to convey to my youngish students is that the choices we make about our surroundings also reveal our characters. Maybe these choices aren't made at a conscious level, but you're still getting full credit from the universe for them.

Try freewriting around this topic. When you sit down in your bedroom, or kitchen, or _____, what do you see? If you're the main character in your own life, what are your "readers" picking up about you?