This is the time of year when the drive from Syracuse downstate to teach for the week is the most subtle and encouraging. The snows are not so far behind that there is no evidence. The trees along the hills and shoulder have a hint of green, as if someone sifted pale green powder over the branches. Others are tinged red as malbec. Everything is waking up from the hibernation and the sun will soon be gold again, instead of silver.
In the process of tweaking the blog site, I discovered this last post that I did not publish from the school year. I still want to share the sentiment, even though it is now summer and this moment is long gone. It is like my own blogosphere time machine. Please enjoy:
I will start my last residency of the school year tomorrow. I will meet approximately 75 more 3rd graders at another school. I will invite them into the magical world of my poetry game and I will likely succeed in getting them all playing with me. I am probably at my best with 3rd graders. I have an appreciation for every age group with whom I work and share poetry. Each age, even generation, brings something different to the experience. But when I am in elementary schools, the imaginative play is still there. And, given this time in American education, it is probably the most valuable thing I can offer the teachers and students alike – the chance to find another way of learning with creativity and imagination. We are all hungry for it these days but it is more noticeable in our schools.
There is a thirst for the opportunity to teach with a freedom that teachers once had. So I get to deliver a few moments of play and poetry together. I get to laugh and bounce through the room and prod and pose countless questions. With 3rd graders, I get to invite them to think of themselves as quite extraordinary and offer them a special mission. Inside that new grouping of words rests the solution to a mystery. The words are not always attainable in the first reading and that is not a bad thing. That is an opportunity to put our detective skills to work.
In the “Poetry Detectives” virtual video game, the full impact of the premise is realized with elementary students. They are willing to buy my spiel…they put on their “official, imaginary, invisible Poetry Detective thinking caps” with flourish. They brandish their “official, imaginary, invisible Poetry Detective badges” as they claim their identities as word sleuths. Then they peer through their “official, imaginary, invisible Poetry Detective magnifying glasses” as they ponder every word; their first hint in the game being that there is never a word in a poem by accident. Each word the poet selects serves a purpose in determining what we think the poet wants us to know, feel, think, or understand from reading the poem.
In middle school, the video game construct works well but we lose the imaginary play that makes it so vibrant with the younger children. The competition takes precedence over the imaginary factors. The students still strive but in a different way.
High school is different still and the coolness factor creates greater hurdles to leap to create and sustain engagement. But the metaphor still works.
On Sunday evenings, I start to think of the smiles, the questions, the schedule, refreshing my memory of the school map, etc. I think about the cafeteria specials that each school is noted for. I remember the names of staff members such as the Library/Media Specialists, the school secretarial staff, the front desk security folks who check my license and welcome me in. Soon it will be time to boot up the game.
Thanks again for following my blog. I appreciate your consideration of my words and thoughts.