On Facebook the other day, another teaching artist friend commented on how cool it was to walk through the halls of the school where she is in residency as she heard the kids say to each other, “There’s the artist.” She said she felt a little like a rock star. I know that feeling so well, particularly because there are schools where I have been in residence for several years. Now I even receive shout-outs and hugs, news that needs to be shared, big smiles. It is terrific.
I have had students walk into their classrooms lately and state, “Yea! Poetry!” Or, “Oh good, the poet is back.” Today students asked me why tomorrow was my last day. Why couldn’t I stay and work more with them? I had to tell them, “I have to go to other schools.” Then they asked why I could not change my schedule. I replied, “Two reasons: commitment and paycheck.” One laughed and said, “You were going to say paycheck first, weren’t you, Ms. Popoff?” I admitted that I was and amended my choice before responding. I cited that as a revision just like they would do with their poem drafts.
I am never sure what to expect. I have confidence that I am skilled at my work but I am always challenged to grow. I will always find something that is new, a teacher will always bless me with new awarenesses and approaches to teaching. Another great element of partnering with classroom teachers is how they translate what comes out of my hyperactive brain to connect with students in another way, often the way they are more used to hearing things. But it is good that they also get to hear things my way, students and teachers both. The more ways a concept can be articulated, the more likely the concept will anchor into consciousness.
We, as teaching artists, are bigger than life to students. We stand outside of the normal way of doing things. We bring a fresh excitement to the classroom and we change the daily rituals, often creating our own. We are frequently animated. I figured out that a great deal of teaching, at least for me, is performance art. I hold very little back and I enjoy being 110% of me. I enjoy when I make students laugh as much as I delight in seeing their pens or pencils connect with the lines on their paper, leaving evidence of their creativity and inner beings.
Students sometimes ask me if I am famous. My standard response is that I am famous, just nobody knows it yet. I appreciate the laugh when they get the joke. I am sometimes asked for autographs. Kids connect and want a tether to what we bring to them in new and expansive ways of knowing themselves. Then maybe they are just hoping we get famous enough to eventually sell the autograph on EBay but, for the time being, I will take the requests as compliments. And I follow in a conscious tradition of great poets and teachers by writing a note with each one, a note that affirms each student and hopefully inspires them to continue to express themselves with language, for all the myriad of reasons that it is healthy and good.
Thanks again for following my blog. I appreciate your consideration of my words and thoughts.