Hoping they'd been inspired by the examples of Anne Frank and other teens who had turned negative experiences into something positive by writing about them, I handed out notebooks for my students to journal about their lives. There was some initial resistance. But then the stories poured out of them, full of anger and sadness.
The stories my pupils told me were astonishing. One told how he had witnessed his cousin being shot in the back five times; another how his parents had died of AIDS. Another said that he'd probably been to more funerals than parties in his young life. For me - someone who had had an idyllic, happy childhood - this was staggering.