Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Poster Police

I’m very, very fortunate. I like what I do and appreciate my job.

One of my favorite things to do each year is act as a judge in the Women in History Poster and Essay Contest. The contest is held in honor of Women’s History Month in March which is when the winners are announced.

To participate, 5-7th graders choose a woman in their lives to honor. Students design a poster and write an essay; both of which are judged on specific criteria by community members.

Judging the contest is always enjoyable. Generally the other judges and I sit around a large table looking at one poster/essay combo at a time, examining the poster, reading the essay, and scoring the participants.

Not having children myself, this gives me insights into how children today think, write, and design. I also have to say, as a writer, I find myself searching for talent. I am never let down. Many of the essays are bright and funny (sometimes even intentionally).

You can also tell which students have an artistic bent by the caliber of their posters. I remember my posters in school having a clumsy, minimalist feel. Art was not my bag, as they say. Many, many people say this, in fact. I am the exact opposite of an artist!

Back to the contest - each year I find myself laughing at some of the sweet, endearing, and often not-well-researched parts of the essays. Whether it’s spelling, grammar, or just a little modern common sense, these kids have the stuff to make me giggle.

This year’s gems included:

“When my grandma was growing up, there were only 4 channels on TV. Not like the millions of channels we have today.”

“It was very ruff when my grandmother was growing up. She says that time was very tuff for her.”

“My Great Aunt hated having to clean the chicken coop as a child. “I was discusted!” She told me.”

“Important historical events in my Nana’s life included the Golf War which is still going on today.”

“My Grandma’s favorite music group was the Beetles. They were popular back then.”

“My grandmother remembers the historical event of man landing on the moon in 1969. She remembers it because my grandpa was building a camper in the garage that year.”

“She had to wash all her own clothes, because there were no laundry matts back then.”

I was actually close to crying with laughter at several points during the judging!

I also thought it was interesting that several of the women being interviewed mentioned how much women’s rights have changed over the years. In particular, I remember one woman who told her grandson that women “weren’t allowed to do anything like today,” and that if she could go back and change anything, she would wait to get married and go to college.

Almost all of the women interviewed had married young, and when asked if there was something they would change, almost all said they would have waited until they were older to get married.

I found that particularly interesting. You can imagine why.

Anyway, you can see why I enjoy this part of my job so much! Hope it makes you smile, too.

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