Today in Lakewood I met with the seventh graders, first in writing workshops and then for an assembly. In the course of our writing, one student observation stood out, “Poetry makes me less scared.” Shyly, she whispered the line. I asked her to read it and read it again. One more time. I love that line.
Teachers Leslie Eiben and Trish Csongei had done a careful and fun job of preparing the kids for a poetry day — enlarging a few of my poems defining feelings — annotating them for better understanding, and then using them as mentor text for kids to write their own poems about feelings. Everybody was excited to see their poems posted for others to read. Now, posting poems in a middle school hallway identifying feelings may seem a bit scary in itself — but instead it had the opposite effect as students were excited to point out their poems to others. Maybe acknowledging feelings in print really does take some of the scared away. How cool is that?
Sometimes kids will ask which age group I like the best and I always tell them that what I like the best is mixing things up. And that’s the truth. Last week my first school visit of the fall took me to Edgewater, Maryland where I met with pre-K through grades 5. We played our tummies and played our lips, making the sounds of poetry. We had great discussions and I not only met some very dedicated teachers, this school has a very active parent group. One of the mom’s brought in a poetry book written by her cousin, an Iraq war vet. Very powerful writing, the images still haunting me a week later. I regret that I forgot my camera!
I’ve been closeted with my computer through the month of September working on new books and thinking about school, vocabulary, poetry, and zombies (another story). It felt good to get back to school.