Coming In Off the Road

It is always a strange decompression after a week in a school. The best part of this work is the mystery to solve. What will students respond to, open their minds and hearts to accept, what new concepts may be investigated, all through a multitude of lenses from which we observe and participate in the world? 
Trusting intuition is the most valuable asset for a teaching artist. If this moment presents the opportunity for a conversation that will change the angle of perception, go for it. What is there to lose. 
This week I had the privilege of working with a small group of high school teachers and partnering with my collaborator, colleague, and friend Quraysh Ali Lansana. The same week, Poetry Alive was booked for assemblies throughout the day. The irony was that Q was a touring teaching poet with Poetry Alive for several years in the early to mid 1990s. We somehow were scheduled that day with classes that were not attending the performance in the auditorium. It was a magnificent parallel.

So much of what any of us do as educators, be it the fine large group work that Poetry Alive had been providing for years or the classroom experience that others embrace, is beyond definition and often beyond any single lesson plan.

We wait for the earnest questions, the eyes that light up n the most unexpected face, the moment in which it all gels in the conversation. Sometimes the spark of righteous indignation…compassion… Sometimes it is in the flare of a new politic. Or maybe just a marvel in the potential of language coupled with thought and empathy.
There are moments of magic that fuel teachers to keep doing what they do. This week we investigated the poetry of identity and migration with 9th graders through the poems of Rhina Espaillat, Langston Hughes, Li-Young Lee, Phil Memmer, Edward Hopper’s painting, Gwendolyn Brooks and her tie between 1953 and 2011, and the world just on the other side of the window, the beat and measure of our names. We were immersed in language, curiosity, history and politics, all peppered with humor. It was a dance, it was a rush.
When a teacher agrees to invite a teaching artist in the classroom, it is a risk in many ways. There is a process of developing trust that takes time to cultivate. There is a lot at stake – the success and enthusiasm of the students being the most specific and significant but certainly not the only outcome desired.
When the flow is right, it is symphonic, it is surfing, it is hang-gliding in the cosmic jetstream. I am sure all teachers feel this way. It is an honor. It is humbling, teaching is a rush. Bearing witness to true openness to learning is an outstanding thrill and marvel. I am ever grateful for my career. 

Have a good weekend, all, and happy birthday to Dr. King. May we always remember.

Thanks again for following my blog. I appreciate your consideration of my words and thoughts.

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