Challenge time arrives at PHS

Published 8:01 am Friday, August 24, 2012

A new panther accenting the newly refurbished entrance to PHS gets a new school year off to a great start. (Contributed)

By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist

“Make a telescope with your hands like me,” I said. “Let’s focus on a single spot.”

Many of my Creative Writing students join me immediately, but some are reluctant. It’s the second day of school. Closing the door, I walk to the front of the room.

“Okay, telescopes down. Here’s a concept-a continuum. Cool is at one end of the spectrum. Notice that it’s towards the hallway, it’s closed in, it’s stifled,” I said. “Passion is at the other end, towards the windows, towards freedom. If you want to be cool, you stifle your passion.”

“If you want to compete with your writing and become a better writer, you must be brave enough to reveal your passion. You decide who you want to be,” I added. “Telescopes up?”

All telescopes go up! The cool façade is restrictive, while passion and the willingness to allow others to see that passion is empowering. Exhibiting passion requires bravery. These students are brave-and I love that!

Artist Vincent Van Gogh said, “Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.”

Starting small can lead to greatness. We discuss the power of words, the weakness of overused words and the strength of a single word. The students turn in one, two or three words that they believe to be powerful. Before the week is out, they will craft six-word memoirs using an image and six precise words in exactly the right order.

As writers anticipate sharing their words, they realize how much bravery this revelation takes. As athletes, musicians, scholars and performers anticipate quickly approaching competitions, they contemplate the intensity of their opponents. As publications’ staffs assume the daunting task of creating yearbooks, newspapers and literary magazines, they begin with only ideas and a willingness to work-hard.

At Pelham High School, we’ve got a new Panther at our main entrance. We’re refreshed and renewed-and we’re meeting our challenges with plans and passion.

PHS Junior Mason Tortorich’s two words are, “Never surrender.” This year, we’re digging in deep, rising to meet the challenge and emerging victorious.


Connie Nolen can be reached by email at