Among Poets

Over the years I’ve grown to appreciate the creative opportunities that being a school director offers.  I never thought I’d get to that point, which is one reason I resisted giving up being a classroom teacher for so long.  I loved teaching, particularly writing.  Even though most of my days are spent covering subs, talking to parents and students, helping staff with situations, working with the APA, writing memos and updates, observing and solving problems, and giving tours of the Seed to prospective parents, I have carved out an hour each week to teach writing to the 3rd/4th graders.  It’s become one of the highlights of my week, in large part because we are writing poetry.

I became a poet when I was twelve and have written poetry ever since.  It was one of my favorite parts of teaching and continues to be to this day.  I love helping the children find their voices and learn how to weave everyday life into simile and metaphor.  It makes me happy to teach them how to “crack open” words or phrases to find the more specific intention of what they are trying to say.  Phrases like “playing is fun” evolve into “It was a moist and magical feeling to run to the rainbow wall in our soaking wet clothes.”

One of the techniques I like to use is to have the children examine found objects from nature using jewelers’ loupes we call Private Eyes.  This year each child has an individual collection of objects, including such items as rocks, sea shells, pinecones, and feathers.  The way we proceed is the children are asked to examine their magnified objects and draw what they see.  They continue this pattern several times, first observing and then drawing details.  After that they make a list of what the drawing reminds them of that is different from the actual object.  For example, a black and white striped feather reminded them of a super chubby caterpillar, a zebra’s back or tail, a smashed Oreo, or an albino tiger.  The lists then become jumping off points for writing poetry.

As a way to model the process, I wrote a poem about my black and white feather.  I used their zebra idea and ended up with a poem called “Zebras Can’t Fly.”  Although I intended to write a whimsical or funny poem, my final draft was about a friendship that didn’t work out.  The conversation about the poem and the children’s insights revealed many of the reasons I love being among young writers.  They shared their observations about word selection and noted that the way the lines were arranged looked like zebra stripes.  They asked sincerely if it really happened.  What followed was a discussion about how, regardless of one’s age, occasionally things just don’t work out as we hope they will.  In the end their words helped me feel better about what had happened.  Sometimes I learn about writing from these wise young poets.  This time it was a lesson about life.

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