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2013 Keables Chair Alexandra Fuller
ALEXANDRA FULLER RECAP
Mon., Feb. 4 -- Wed., Feb. 6
By Micheline McManus
"The kids are talking."
I overheard this comment in the teachers’ lounge after Alexandra Fuller's Tuesday chapel address to the ninth and tenth grades. There is no better compliment for a Keables Chair Holder. The guest has ‘Iolani people talking.
Fuller began the week with a chapel talk to the seventh and eighth grades. Her talk prompted an interesting classroom discussion about bullying, an especially apt topic given that the seventh grade theme this year is “taking a stand.” An important question came out of this classroom conversation, “Does using your voice mean challenging authority?” Fuller pointed out that challenging authority is important, but knowing how to challenge authority is essential. She encouraged students to think about the moral implications of free speech, embracing both the power of dissent and the need for respectful discourse.
Fuller is also visiting and guest-teaching classes, including Creative Non-Fiction, taught by former Keables Chair Holder, Lee Cataluna, and Meghan Schroers-Martin. During one visit to Lee Cataluna's class, she was intrigued by junior Josh Adachi's question, “Did you find your writing voice … or did your writing voice find you?” After years of answering student questions, this was a first.
The English department had the opportunity to have lunch with Ms. Fuller. Her description of her sarcasm-free life, and her admission that she fears death by crocodile were compelling, but it was the question from Dr. Joseph Won that sparked the most intriguing response. He asked, “Where is your accent from?” Fuller's answer took the form of stories. She told us about imprisoned photographers, wannabe cowgirls, and government boarding schools. She noted that if you want to get past a roadblock in Rhodesia, when they wave a gun at you, you should act like an entitled housewife. Hand them a smoked cigarette and say, “Do you mind throwing that away for me? Thanks.” Living and writing in different accents, or voices, is a consistent theme in Fuller’s work.
After teaching the English department to speak everything from Zimbabwe housewife to cowboy, Ms. Fuller then addressed the entire faculty. She recounted the political oppression in Rhodesia that has led to the exile of 70 percent of the country’s teachers. She told us how “dangerous” we teachers are, so much so that a government looking to strip a community of its voice will target educators first.
“She was born in England. She was raised in Africa. She lives in Wyoming.” English teacher Frank Briguglio used these words to introduce Alexandra Fuller. In this pithy introduction he captured some of what has made Ms. Fuller’s visit so dynamic. She has shared her voice through her many compelling stories, but she has also encouraged us to find and to use our voices. So far, ‘Iolani has been treated to some British wit, some African stories and some Cowgirl adventures.
Best of all, "the kids are talking."
ALEXANDRA FULLER RECAP
Wed., Feb. 6 -- Fri., Feb. 8
By Micheline McManus
I knew it was going to be a great class when Alexandra Fuller turned to ask, "May I swear?"
She then told students about her father, whose nickname included a colorful expletive that my creative writing class thoroughly enjoyed.
Creative Writing was one of several classes that Fuller guest taught this week. She shared her experiences with the Women and Literature class, and she asked students in Creative Non-Fiction, “Tell the story without which you would not be you.” Fuller addressed the ninth graders about the importance of writing voice, and she deftly fielded student questions about autobiographical accuracy and gun control. My students had heard the buzz surrounding Alexandra Fuller, and they were excited.
Before the bell rang, Fuller wandered around the classroom reading the quotations on the walls. She began class by referring to a Sylvia Plath quote pinned to the bulletin board, “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” Fuller shared her own challenges in handling the self-doubt that comes from rejection. The class was surprised to discover that 10 of her books were rejected by publishers, and they were delighted to learn that when Fuller's children are peeved with her, they shout down from upstairs, “Hey Mom, here’s another one star Amazon book review!” Fuller has learned to handle rejection by shrinking her ego; what was once a day’s long reaction to disappointment is now over in an hour.
Students asked questions about her family, her school experiences and her motivation for writing. But the most provocative question came from Fuller herself. She asked the class, “When do you dream? When do you create?” Some students said that they don’t have time to create. They are too tired. They have too much work. In response Fuller quoted from performance artist Marina Abramovic:
An artist’s relation to solitude:
- An artist must make time for the long periods of solitude
- Solitude is extremely important
- An artist should stay for long periods of time at waterfalls
- An artist should stay for long periods of time at exploding volcanoes
- An artist should stay for long periods of time looking at the horizon where the ocean and sky meet
Particularly in Hawaii, where we are surrounded by the kinds of places Abramovic describes, Fuller encouraged students to find opportunities to be alone, to experience solitude. Fuller argued that artists need the emptiness that solitude brings to open up new space to create. As the bell rang one enthusiastic student suggested, “Waterfall field trip!”
The next day, students reflected on the visit. "She was so funny!" "I want to meet her kids." "I'm going to find her before she leaves and ask her what I should write about." "She was boisterous." "She used swear words!" Whether it was a chapel talk, a community gathering, a faculty reception or a class visit, Alexandra Fuller offered 'Iolani provocative ideas to ponder long after she leaves.
And she swore.
|‘Iolani Dance Team auditions||May 20|
|Beginning Orchestra Concert||May 19|
|Stage Bands at Hawai‘i Theatre||May 19|
|Economics team wins national title||May 19|
|'Saturday for Service' project||May 18|
|Lower School Musical 'Aladdin Jr.'||May 18|
|10th Annual ‘Iolani Film Festival||May 17|
|Spring Chorus & Hōkūloa Concert||May 17|
|Raider Awards (fourth quarter)||May 15|
|Sixth graders interview alumni||May 13|
|Beginning band 'Aloha Concert'||May 11|
|Kindergarten Ho‘olaule‘a||May 10|
We have been teaching the young people of Hawai‘i since 1863. Our students are well-rounded, curious, intelligent and active citizens.
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