As If We Were Gods is an anthology of writing by the seventh-grade students of IS 187-Hudson Cliffs School in Manhattan. It was completed during a ten-week residency from December of 2017 through March of 2018 for Teachers & Writers Collaborative.
The goal of this residency was to deepen students’ understanding of the Spanish conquest of the Native American Aztec kingdom by bringing creative writing strategies into the social studies classroom.
We concentrated on three turning points in history: Cortez’s first meeting with Aztec ruler Montezuma, the conversion of the Aztecs from their native religion to Christianity, and the destruction of Aztec religious idols by the Spanish. Using pictures of these world-changing events, we asked the students to imagine that they were one of the people who were there for these events, and become “eyewitnesses to history.” We asked, What would it be like to come face to face with other people and another culture so different from yours? Would you be able to trust each other? What would you be willing to give up in order to coexist peacefully? What would it be like to have everything you know and love taken away from you?
One of the challenging truths we asked the students to consider was this––that no one believes that they are the villain. Everyone has their reasons, whether or not we agree with those reasons or points of view. We told the students, You don’t have to like the person you’re writing about––but you do have to understand them. The fact that many students were able to do that shows both their skill as writers and their depth as human beings.
by Anna (7th grade)
I put my head in my hands. I cry out, “No, stop!” I worked on each statue for so long. Each one, including some I made with no help at all. I hear someone yell near me. All the colors flash before my eyes as the statues fall down. All the colors flow out of me. Any time I made these, all my feelings went into the statute. All of the loneliness, all of the times people ignored me. But when I started making the statues, people started paying attention, but to the statues, not me. So I started putting a piece of me into my work, my feelings. All I want is to be noticed, to have friends, for people to like what I do.
Why Did He Come Back?
by Madison (7th grade)
Is he really here?
Is that really him?
I see our god shaking hands with my leader.
I hear my leader welcoming my god.
I smell the palm trees and the salty ocean.
I feel suspicious and surprised.
Why did he come back?
Did he come back to kill us?
he came back to join us.