Writing stories to pass values from one generation to the next

Writing What My Students Write: Narrative


Writing What My Students Write: Narrative

My high school English students will be writing narrative, expository, descriptive, and persuasive essays during this school year. And so will I.

For the, shall we say, less-than-fully-engaged English student, this news will not be received as glad tidings. They know that I am a writer and that my simple goal for them this year is that they become better, more engaged readers and better writers. Having reached high school, they are keenly aware that a teacher’s desire for them to be a better…well, anything…usually arrives as the companion of hard work. But I also have the same goals for myself as I have for them, to be a better reader and a better writer as a result of English 12…and English 11…and English 10.

So in the spirit of camaraderie, I’ll write here what they are writing in class. Keeping in mind their 500-750 word limit, I’ll stay within that limit for this, my narrative essay.

The Emergency Room…Again

It was my brother’s fault, really. I shouldn’t have been here so soon after my broken ankle from just a few months prior. Yet here I sat, waiting. Hunched over, I was afraid to move. I had been well on my way toward unconsciousness after the glass of our back door splintered around my hand when my mom snapped an ammonia cap to shock me back to reality. My desire was to stay in the present until stitches brought my arm back into a semblance of its former shape. Dad sat with me, talking, trying to keep me awake. Mom had a thing about hospitals, and she had done her part by helping deliver me with some level of consciousness to those who could put me back together again.

The jagged, horseshoe-shaped cut on my wrist would later speak without words to those who saw it. Suicide attempt? Avid Colts fan? No, I just couldn’t catch the door before my brother slung it back as part of his escape from me that day. I considered these potential future conversations as I examined nine fresh stitches on the underside of my wrist. As I held up my arm, Dad saw a theretofore unnoticed cut on my forearm. Four more stitches later, I sat once again hunched over, afraid to move. The nurses convinced me to take my time.

After the first effort to walk to the nurses’ station prompted another few minutes in the fetal position, I was ready to go home. I strode tentatively at first and then more confidently to the counter 30 feet from my holding cell. I tried my best to play the part of a recovered patient ready for discharge. I was alert enough to see a number of nurses scanning my face.

“Get me a wheelchair!” one of the nurses commanded.


I protested, the high school athlete in me rising up to this challenge. I would walk out of the hospital under my own power. “No, really, I feel okay. A little weak, maybe, but I’m fine to walk to the car.”

“No, not for you. For her!”

My poor mama. She had responded to my initial injury with swift valor. She had done everything by the book and was solely responsible for the surging power I felt within me to courageously walk myself to the door. Lost in all the concern for me, though, she had not bothered to remind Dad and me of her disdain for blood and needles, both of which had been quite prominent in this episode. So Dad went to fetch the car while I walked next to my mom as she was embarrassingly wheeled toward the exit.

Mom was the strong one who made sure I made it to the hospital to get the help I needed that day. Not until much later did she get the help she needed and even then, not because her family noticed. But isn’t that the way it is with good mothers? They rest when their sacrifice for their family is sufficient.

I hope you have enjoyed this narrative essay, which I prefer to call creative non-fiction. (Narrative essay has a less-than-appealing ring to it, by comparison, don’t you think?) When my students take on the various types of essays, I’ll share another of mine. I’m learning, too, even as I’m teaching.

Want more narrative essays (or creative non-fiction)?

Check out my first two books:


Lines in the Gravel (and 52 Other Re-Told Childhood Tales)



Stories from the Roller Coaster



About Al Ainsworth

Al Ainsworth is a values storyteller. He works with individuals, businesses, churches, and other organizations to pass along their values through the stories they tell…and re-tell. Al is the author of Lines in the Gravel, Stories from the Roller Coaster (of a Faith Life), and the Coach Dave series. Subscribe to his email list for more values storying.

5 Replies

  1. Wonderful ! Great writing exercise !

  2. Writing essays when my students write essays was always a part of my belief that if I’m not learning while my students are learning I’m probably not teaching very well.

What do you think?