In front of the John Lennon Wall in Prague.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Power of Poetry

Today was not an easy one in the teaching part of my world.  Already exhausted from putting in 10-hour days for the past weeks, this morning I found out that due to changes in our school's enrollment, I will no longer be teaching a class I truly love.  After that news, I felt depressed and withdrawn, already mourning the loss of the wonderful experiences I've had with this class since the beginning of September.

One of the difficult things about teaching is trying to keep up my spirits in front of a class of students. Sometimes I can forget whatever life issue I struggle with, but there are some days when it just feels too much.  Today was one of those.  All I could think of was to get through the rest of my classes until the bell rang at the end of the day.

And then I began my 8th grade class. The new unit they are studying is poetry. On a whim, I decided I would read the poems for the day's lesson. I told my students how important it is to read a poem aloud as a performance with style and grace.  So I began to read two poems by Jacqueline Woodson from her book, Locomotion. This is a book of poems written in the voice of Lonnie, a teenage boy living with a foster family.  Lonnie learns from his teacher that he "has a poet's heart."  As I read - with as much expression and emotion as I could - my unruly, noisy bunch of 35 8th graders sat as silently as any 5-year old listening to a bed-time story.  Anyone who has seen - and heard - this wild group would find it hard to believe their rapt attention to the words.

As I read the last lines of "Almost Summer Sky," with its symbol of Rodney acting as a tree to provide shade for his young foster brother, my heart calmed.  I'm sure I'll feel sadness for my loss at another time.  However, for that moment I was able to forget myself in the beauty of words.  Once again I was renewed by poetry.

1 comment:

  1. Cderby37@gmail.comOctober 30, 2011 at 9:19 AM

    I loved this story. It almost made me want to "come out of retirement" and teach one of "those wild groups"again. Almost!
    Can your students put their feelings about this situation into words?