I Ended Class Early...
In 10 years, of teaching, I have never purposefully ended class early. But, this week I did.
My freshman are currently working through our poetry unit. I might teach poetry differently than many other teachers. I don't focus on analyzing famous poetry or breaking down a poet's life to figure out the hidden meaning of their poems...We analyze the entire year, so my poetry unit is 100% based on creation.
My 8-week poetry unit is broken down into weekly poetical genres. We spend a week on free verse, a week on sonnets, a week of blackout and found poetry, etc... I have 20-30 different writing prompts that we use for writing each genre of poetry. After the 8 weeks are up, they will have written close to 250 poems. Granted, my poems are usually very short... 10 lines are the max on most occasions. I do this for two reasons:
1. it allows for quick creation and allows for more chances to write on different subjects (therefore, allowing for more introspection)
2. it is about how long I can keep their attention
So, this week we started week 1 of our 8-week poetry unit, and one of my prompts was to write an 8 line free-verse poem about something 'serious' to them... after 3-4 minutes, I give each class the option to read their poems out loud (I give them 1-5 'banked' points for presenting...see my other blog posts for what banked points are and how they work) Below is what happened one day in my 7th period class...
The first poem presented dealt with someone who had abandoned them and how much they hated them for it. The next poem dealt with the death of this student's father and how much it affected them. Both students were crying at this point. Then, two other students went over and hugged them. I went over, gave them a hug and made sure they were OK. I thanked them for being willing to open themselves to the class...that takes GUTS...
After a minute or two, we continued. Another student presented their poem on the death of a loved one and how they had trouble being 'the survivor.' After this, the whole class dynamic changed. I had kids hugging other kids, kids crying in each other's arms...I had one kid run out of class because they didn't want people to see their breakdown. A friend went to go get them, and they sat in the corner and talked.
As a teacher, I was in awe. As an ENGLISH teacher, I was proud. I was proud that both girls AND boys were so willing to be vulnerable and display their hearts... I looked around, and everyone was talking...they were talking about their feelings, trying to comfort their friends, and hugging each other. I told them I was ending class because there was nothing I could do that was more important than them just loving on each other.
In 10 years of teaching, I had never seen anything like that, and I might never see it again. But it was amazing, and it gave me hope for the future.
Yes, class time is important, but so is allowing teenagers time to love and heal.
Healing trumped poetry, but poetry created the healing.
T.S Eliot: "The purpose of literature is to turn blood to ink"
Well said, Mr. Eliot... well said