“Revised Syllabus As Personal Essay By A Former Zoom Teacher” — Andy Tran

Intro to Creative Writing

Summer 2020
Monday-Thursday 1:30-3:30 PM

8/10-8/27

Mr. Andrew Tran

Welcome!

I’m thinking about railing a long white line off of my iPhone, and I’m also thinking about buying Ketamine with my future paycheck. Right now, I’m wearing a blue suit and staring at my computer screen,  my face is reflected back and it’s hard to look at myself. I’ve made PowerPoint slides with art from Banksy and Basquiat. I wonder if the kids are excited to learn about Ekphrastic poems.

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Mr. Tran Intro/Half Truths

My name is Mr. Tran. My favorite animal is a Siberian husky. My favorite food is steak. My favorite color is blue. If I could anywhere in the world, I would go to Alaska. I would love to have dinner with a jiggly puff!

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It’s my second day as a Zoom creative writing teacher at a private school. I’ve never taught a class before and I don’t have a degree in education. I don’t have a teaching license, but I have worked with kids on two separate occasions. In Northern, VA, I taught kids at a summer Tennis camp based out of a country club. I’ve also been a support educator/helper at a Jewish Community Center. I know how to coach kids on serves and volleys, and I know how to change diapers. But I also know a few brief things about creative writing. 

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Icebreaker

What’s your name? What’s your favorite animal? What’s your favorite food? What’s your favorite color? If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go, could be real imaginary? Would you rather have dinner with a superhero or a Pokémon? 

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I work in a small room, but I do my classes over Zoom: 2nd graders and 4th graders. My room has a blackboard, a short wooden desk, no windows, and ten desks for students. Nobody will be sitting at those desks. That’s fine.

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Let’s Get Started

We’re going to talk about creative writing! 

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Each class is an hour long. It’s Monday-Thursday, for four weeks. I get paid $15.50 an hour. I know it’s not much money, but I need the job. I like working with the kids because it gives me a sense of responsibility, which makes me feel great. It makes me feel like I’m doing something meaningful with my life. Most days, I don’t do anything productive. On most days, I get high and space out in my bedroom. 

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Whites Lies

My favorite book is Artemis Fowl. My favorite movie is Toy Story. There are main characters in each story. Artemis Fowl is the main character in Artemis Fowl. Woody is the main character in Toy Story.

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At the moment, I think I’m doing great as a teacher. It’s rewarding to help the kids achieve their goals in creative writing. I like seeing them raise their hands and asking questions. I like when they share their poems or short stories with the class. It’s cool to seem them engaged and excited about learning.

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Sincere Questions

What are some of your favorite books and movies? Everything in life centers on a story. In fact, your own life is a story.

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I wake up each morning and drink coffee. I sit at my desk and construct a PowerPoint presentation. I do this Monday-Thursday for four weeks and it’s fun but tedious. I find that it helps to have a visual component that goes alongside my lectures and notes for the kids. I have time to write in the mornings but mainly I spend time building multiple slides for PowerPoints. I have a craving to rail a line. I hate my habits. 

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Truths

Each day, we will be writing in our imagination journals. You can either write in a notebook, or on a word document. I would love to see what you’re working on. For 6 minutes, I want you to write in your imagination journals. 

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I hope the PowerPoint slides spark the kids’ interest in creative writing. I include pictures of Winnie The Pooh and Eeyore from Google Images. I put in a picture of Jiggly Puff and Woody from Toy Story. I put in a picture of a Siberian Husky and a T-Bone steak that’s wearing a puffy chef’s hat and an apron. 

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Activity Intended to Engage the Kids

Next, we’re going to do Acrostic poems!!!

An acrostic poem is where certain letters in each line spell out a word or phrase. 

For Example:


Mighty
Ridiculous 
Tortoises 
Run
Around
New York City

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I don’t have to work until 1:30 PM each day. I come into the office at 1PM so that I can prep for class. I’m not sure if the school is supposed to provide me with a lesson plan. They’re not paying me for prep time. I don’t know what’s going on sometimes. 

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Teacher Journal 

Fiction-The Short Story

Character: Andrew is the character in this story. He makes bad decisions, but also good ones. No one is rooting for him, except for himself and his mom. 

Story: He gets a job at a private school in Northern Virginia and he becomes a Zoom creative writing teacher/admin assistant. 

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My cousin H. is in one of the classes. It’s really awesome and exciting to teach him but each day he uses the bathroom during class. I try to smile and shake it off. I let it happen. My head hurts. I don’t know if that’s from withdrawals, or because I need a cigarette. At work, I wear a nicotine patch and try to drink at least two bottles of water. For eight years, I’ve been smoking cigarettes. I try not to slouch in my chair. I sit up straight and tall, but my eyes are growing sleepy.

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Setting: Northern Virginia. 

Plot: He gets the job, makes money, and wastes it on Ketamine, alcohol, and cigarettes

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I’m thinking about drinking three cups of coffee tomorrow. Every day, I write down my thoughts in my Google Docs. Today, I’m working on this syllabus/essay. Today, I don’t get high. 

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Conflict: Andrew is trying to move out of the house, but he’s afraid of leaving his mom alone. 

Theme: Perseverance. 

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At its core, this class is a launchpad for diving into the imagination to create your own works of writing. We will be close reading short fiction and poetry, as we learn and discuss the literary devices used in each piece. After reading, students will create their own short stories and poems, and they will have the opportunity to share their writing by reading out loud to the class. Also, we will reach into our memory and pull from personal experiences to help shape and craft our writing. At the beginning of class, we will do writing exercises to help you build your creative voice. We will develop plot, characters, and scenes. And as students read and write, they will discover the power of language. 

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Point of View: 1st person and close 3rd person.

Style: Out of fashion, blunt, and sarcastic. 

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I don’t hate my job. I actually love working with kids. To teach creative writing feels like a blessing, but I don’t like doing admin work. I’m also the admin assistant for the private school. I write the course descriptions for the private school, the welcome letter, design the calendar, and revise papers by prospective students. I wear a mask at work, especially since no one else at my job is wearing a mask, not even the staff. I’m not sure how long I will work here for. I don’t think the other teachers or the staff like me very much. I do know that the kids are enjoying my class, and maybe they’re cool with me too. I know that much and that’s what keeps me going. 

I’ll go. 

I’ll go, I’ll perform.

I’ll go and I’ll perform, until I have no more energy left. 


Andy Tran is a digital art collagist from Piscataway, NJ and he lives in the DMV. He’s working on a short story collection called: ‘Big Sis’. And he’s working on a novel called: ‘Calendar’. 

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