Saturday, January 12, 2008

That Dirty Little Four-Letter Word

You know what I’m talking about! Everything is perfectly normal in your classroom (well… I mean as normal as it can be). Suddenly the atmosphere is sucked out of your room leaving a soundless, scentless (OK, maybe not scentless if your kids had gym that day) vacuum. The cause? It wasn’t a star burning out and leaving a dense black hole in its wake. It wasn’t the hole in our ozone layer expanding to the point where all oxygen, nitrogen, CO2, and whatever else you science teachers know is up there, is violently ripped from our world’s grasp. (If that’s even possible, I don’t know. I don’t teach science.) This catastrophic shift has not been caused by anything even remotely close to that magnitude. No. It has been caused by the utterance of one seemingly harmless, yet somehow daunting, four-letter word. You know the one.

P-O-E-M! AAAAaaaahhhhh! (Insert the “Kill” theme music from PSYCHO here.)

You know you just found yourself going, “Ree Ree Ree Ree...” all alone in front of your computer? Hopefully nobody saw you!
This poetry problem is wide spread. It spans not only schools and towns, but generations of learners and generations of teachers. The reason why? I assert that it is due to too many people teaching and viewing poetry as an elite science that only a few can access, rather than the welcoming and accepting art form that it should truly be for our children and ourselves. Far too many of us have shared the following terrible experiences while we interpreted or wrote poetry in a class:

YOU: Well, I believe that the poet is trying to say (blah, blah, blah).

TEACHER: No. That is incorrect. The poet is actually saying (something that comes out like… Na Na nana NA… I’m smarter than You-ou!).

OR
YOU: I've completed my poem, would you like to read it?
TEACHER: Well... this isn't actually a poem. You see, you need to (pointless advice, that student doesn't hear because they stopped listening and started worrying as soon as the teacher said, "this isn't actually a poem.").

Because of this, a huge section of students have been made to feel that they just don’t get it and definitely can't write it. This is the sentiment that we, as educators, must battle against.

Over my next few posts, my goal is to provide you with thoughts, strategies, and ideas that will hopefully help you to fully integrate poetry into your curriculum. It doesn’t matter whether you teach, English, history, math, science, etc., poetry and the creation of it will reap positive benefits for both you and your students. You will be amazed at what your students can create if they just… well, I won’t spoil it now. Stay tuned!