Tag Archives: poetry about teaching

#228: On the Day After the Election

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Having wept myself to sleep the night before,
I got up and went to work in the school house
where we met in small teams in the library
to plan or do curriculum work or talk about
assessments, where instead I chose to color
with crayons at the table our new librarian
set up for art. It was the only thing I could do.
I colored inside the lines with several different
shades of blue and some pink here and there
while I tried to keep myself together.
Talking to anyone, to any friendly face,
I had to work hard not to break down.

I was thankful when students arrived inside
my room. They gave me a focus, a place to
channel my energies, an opportunity to make
some kind of difference. My 9th graders,
unusually subdued and cooperative, dove with
some enthusiasm into a Sherman Alexie novel,
a novel about race, culture, and class divide,
but a novel, too, about hope. Arnold Spirit Jr.
realizes it feels good to help others, and I could
feel that thought resonating inside the room.
Later, my seniors came in for a study of
A Room of One’s Own, and rather than talk and
have to face the reality of this particular irony
head on, I asked my students to make art,
to talk about what was going on in Virginia
Woolf’s head by drawing it on the page.
Students must have paused for a long time
at the passage about the cat without a tail,
the cat pausing, “as if it too questioned the
universe,” as Woolf realizes that, suddenly,

“Everything was
different”
and
“Nothing was changed”
and yet, “the change was there”
not in substance but in sound.
What did men hum before the election?
What did women hum before the election?
And now what, after?
We carry on. We cling to hope.
We agitate and advocate for what we know is good.
We color, and we do what I found today
to be most healthful, finding comfort in
kindness from others and the kind attention
I could give, a hug I received from my son,
and solace in the words on the page.

 

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Filed under Culture, Education, Poetry, Politics, Teaching, Writing and Reading

Embarking Yet Again on Another Forced Creativity Experiment: Year 3 of NAPOWRIMO

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Happy National Poetry Month! Beginning on Wednesday, April 1 (this is no April Fool’s joke), I will attempt for the third year in a row to participate in the NaPoWriMo challenge of writing a poem a day for the entire month and publishing each poem here on the blog site. I promise, once again, not to cheat; I will not be publishing poems I have written earlier, but only those poems I write on each day of April, 2015–the good, the mediocre, the bad, and the mostly ugly.

I remember the last two years the challenge of squeezing out a poem every day, and squeezing out the time somewhere to get it done, and the rewards and pitfalls of writing fast, off the cuff, without time for revision, sometimes from prompts, sometimes from the mundane events of the day or the news, and often inspired by what I was doing in my classroom. Writing about the classroom was a challenge last year; in both of the classes I taught we were studying the same material as the year before, but with a different group of students: the Chinese poets of the T’ang Dynasty, and American Romanticism. So, I already had a whole series of poems about these things! Luckily, this year at this time I’m teaching different classes.  My freshmen, I’m sure, will provide lots of inspiration, as will my seniors, but for the opposite reasons, and my IB Juniors are studying Pablo Neruda this year, not the Chinese Ancients. It is a cool coincidence (I swear I didn’t plan it this way) that in my IB English class for Juniors  we are studying poetry during National Poetry Month. Last year I challenged my students to play along by writing their own 30 poems. I think I had exactly zero takers.  They want extra credit, but all I’m willing to offer them is the kind of credit that is infinitely more rewarding, but for which they always laugh at me: Extra Soul Credit.

If you would like to help with the cause, you can.  Feel free to send me suggestions for poems–subject matter, specific prompts, stylistic guidance, particular forms, special challenges, over-arching themes.  I’m up for almost anything, provided it’s not ridiculously hard, e.g. write an epic in 300 numbered quatrains about the Higgs boson particle entirely in iambic pentameter.  You could also help by reading, commenting, and following, which I appreciate immensely.  Otherwise, wish me luck.  I hope you can check it out, if not every day, every once in a while.

Meanwhile, here’s a couple of cool related items of interest:

A great resource for poetry:  http://www.poets.org

Another great resource for poetry: http://www.loc.gov/poetry/180

A place to play for free books of poetry:  http://ofkells.blogspot.com

A place to learn about and play the poem a day for a month game:  http://www.napowrimo.net

Cheers!

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#97: Doing the Extra Soul Credit

Is this worth any points? they ask.
And I say, of course, but you won’t
see them in the grade book; instead,
you’ll feel them somewhere inside
your head or your heart–that’s why
we call it extra soul credit.
Very few students are motivated
by this. I don’t care. While I’m not
opposed to enrichment work, I am opposed
to extra credit, in principle,
because the work we do in class
is the work for the class.
You don’t build a thing for someone,
do a terrible job at it,
and then ask for something else
to do better.  No, the person
will either fire you or make you
build the thing correctly that
you were originally supposed to build
in the first place.  However,
you might go the extra mile for someone,
or, more importantly, for yourself,
ad that little something special at no charge,
or just be super cool and caring and understanding,
and at first, you get absolutely no compensation for that
except the warm fuzzy you feel and they feel for having
shared something positive with other humans
or for having created or accomplished
something unique, worthwhile, good.
You do the extra thing because it is worthwhile doing
in and of itself.  You’re doing the extra soul credit.
It’s good for you.  And, eventually, maybe,
even in some tangible way, it pays off.

ExtraCreditSign

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Filed under Education, Poetry, Teaching