It’s my favorite time of year again. You might think I mean fall or autumn or whatever you may call that mythical time of year when colors change and it starts to cool off. But then, if you know me, you may realize I live in Arizona and I don’t actually experience those things. Fall/autumn in the A.Z. is basically long weeks of wishing we lived somewhere with colors that changed. Here, brown stays brown and the ‘wanna-be-green’ stays….well, ‘wanna-be-green’. Not that I’m complaining, I mean, I did choose to live here…but, no. “Fall” is not what I’m talking about.
It’s usually about this time of year that I teach poetry in my 5th-grade classroom. I heard that groan…and I hear that groan every year when I tell my students we are starting our poetry unit. Some people, including some kids, have a very negative view of poetry. If you are one of those people that instantly envision long, complicated, rhyme schemes and hidden messages written by long-haired old(dead) guys…I pity you. To me, poetry is freedom. I love it.
My goal when teaching poetry is to have my students fall in love with poetry. When I teach it MY way, that usually happens. I’ve only taken a chance one year and taught poetry according to a certain ‘curriculum’ that will remain nameless. That particular year, the groans never ceased and we all breathed a sigh of relief when the unit was over. Never again, nevermore.
We are in week three of poetry and the initial groans have been left far behind. Every day, my heart is swelled and little lightbulbs of hope ignite in my teacher’s brain as I read the wonderful things my students write. Yes, I assign certain forms and types of poems. I make them fit certain molds at times. We must have order! But, it never ceases to amaze me at what they create.
The most inspiring and surprising thing that happens every single year is that student that totally blindsides me with their hidden creativity. This year is no exception. I have the obvious kids who take up a bit more space than others. They are full participants in every discussion, their hands are in the air-waving like crazy, they get straight A grades and are teacher dreams.
Then there are the quiet ones. The ones who tear up when you have a personal conversation with them. The ones you ask yourself…’has anyone ever asked this kid what THEY thought about life, liberty and the pursuit of their hearts’? The kid that forgets to hand in every other assignment, stares into space and follows the others with a bit of hesitant conformity. These are the ones.
These are the ones that appear silently beside you after the rush of “help mes” and timidly hand you a paper with what may seem like random scribbles. They look at you with fear mixed with the hope that they will be heard. They might not have followed the directions, you may need a code to figure out their spelling, but there it is. Their heart, their mind, their ME is right before you. It’s like a flashlight has finally focused its beam on that hidden clue you have been searching for the last ten weeks. There he is!
There really aren’t words to convey how privileged I feel to be a teacher. It is an incredible blessing to work with these little brains that are still forming. I see students I had years ago and the little ten-year-old I had still shines through their mature, young adult faces. I had a part in that. I was part of the sculpture team. Did I hear them? Did I fill some part of their mind that helped them in some way? It is daunting, terrifying, but oh so rewarding.
Beautiful words from a beautiful soul. Yes, I hear you. I see you. Cause I said so.
Photo credit: michealablog