I write a poem on my white board every day. Students, teachers, and administrators can see it. It’s a practice I started sometime after the hurricane when I realized how much my students were reading poetry books as their self-selected reading and I thought maybe the kids and I could use another way to connect to language.
Recently, in a response email to a recent blog post submission, Amy challenged me to write about the poetry that I briefly mentioned in “Part II. Continuing the Crusade for My Readers.” She called on me to elaborate on the authors that I use in my “Poem of the Day” selections and why I mentioned those in particular. This took some reflection because an obvious answer didn’t leap fully formed from my head. I think there are several reasons:
It’s what the kids are reading. So many of the girls in my classes read “Milk and Honey” and Rupi Kaur’s more recent book of poems, “The Sun and her Flowers.” They buy the books themselves and a few weeks ago, members of our dance squad feverishly passed my poetry books around. Many of those girls don’t even have me as their teacher. They take pictures of the entries that speak to them and re-read when they think they’ve missed something or they want to experience those feelings over again.
This style of poetry appeals to me. I like it. I like to read the poems and consider my own experiences and feelings. Maybe I’m entering my emotional teenage girl phase, but sometimes these speak to me as strongly as they speak to the kids.
Like everyone, time is precious for me. My schedule is particularly tight with my football periods and no real time to plan or collaborate with my teaching peers during the school day. Like everyone else, I find time when I can and when I’m working on my lesson plans, I make sure that I’ve selected, ahead of time, the poem for each day. Choosing poems is easy. I try to pick poems that might be meaningful to 12th graders and not too long that I can’t write them on the board. I might find these poems in the poetry books I’ve already mentioned or even on Instagram. I have to dig a little, but #poetry produces gold often enough. I recently purchased a compilation of the poetry of Langston Hughes and I have books by other poets on the shelf behind my desk. My wife even purchased a book of poetry for my classroom when one of her co-workers recommended it.
Another place I can reach for poetry is into myself. I can take what I see and mimic it. Structure is easy to replicate, but the themes are more difficult. The “notes” app on my phone is full of little thoughts and lines and poems.
I guess the natural question is, “What do you do with the poetry?” The answer: it depends. Sometimes the themes of the poems tie into the themes that we see in our reading selections. Other times, we use the poems to jump-start a quick write. Most days, we take a second to look at the poem on the board, and move on.
No matter what, I can say that I give my students a window through which to view poetry every single day, and that, I think, is an important opportunity for them and for me.
A list of resources I’ve pulled from recently:
- Milk and Honey – Rupi Kaur
- The Sun and her Flowers – Rupi Kaur
- Born to Love, Cursed to Feel – Samantha King
- A Beautiful Composition of Broken – r.h.sin
- Identical – Ellen Hopkins
- The Princess Saves Herself in this One – Amanda Lovelace
- The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes – Edited by Arnold Rampersad
- How Lovely the Ruins: Inspirational Poems and Words for Difficult Times – Forward by Elizabeth Alexander
Charles Moore teaches Senior English, coaches JV soccer and shuttles his 10 year old soccer playing son across town 2 days a week. Follow Charles on Twitter at @ctcoach.