Change Can Be a Good Thing, Sometimes

I’m very much a creature of habit.  Change has always been difficult for me to handle.  I don’t like change.  I like to keep things the same.  Routine is important to me.  Starting this school year has been incredibly difficult because the co-teacher who I worked with for five years left at the end of the last academic year, which meant that I would be working with a new teacher.  While she is doing a fine job, it’s not the same.  I feel weird and different about things this year because of it.  Everything is a bit off.  I’m working towards coming to grips with change, but it’s challenging.  Sometimes, I force change upon myself as a way to practice.  I’m hopeful that as I mature, so will my ability to deal with change.

Today in Humanities class, we completed a writing activity based on George Ella Lyon’s Where I’m From Poem.  While we did this activity last year, I felt like we spent too long on it.  Things felt discombobulated and cumbersome when we did this lesson last year.  So, I changed it up a bit this year, and I think, it was totally worth it.

I began the lesson by explaining why we are completing it.  What’s the purpose of writing a Where I’m From poem?  As our first unit is Community, it is important that we help to build and foster a sense of community within our class.  This activity does just that.  After the students understood the purpose of the activity, we jumped right in.  I started by sharing the original Where I’m From poem by Lyon.  We quickly discussed it but not at length because most of the language is too advanced for our students.  However, I wanted the boys to see the original mentor text.  Then, I shared the Where We’re From poem our sixth grade class crafted last year.  We did go into depth when we discussed this piece because the language was far more accessible.  The students shared noticings, and I pointed out the figurative language the students had used.  I then shared the first Where I’m From poem I wrote two years ago when I took a class on Place-Based Writing.

Following these examples, my new co-teacher explained the purpose of brainstorming and how to apply it to this activity.  We also informed the students that if they struggled crafting their poem, we had a template worksheet they could use to stimulate ideas.  No one took us up on this offer during class though.  Then, I reviewed the expectations and told the boys how long they had to craft their Where I’m From poem.  I also explained the assignment in a different way, hoping to inspire students.  “Picture where you’re from in your head like a photograph.  Then, put that image into words to create your poem.”  I then instructed them to begin their poem with “I’m from…”  At this point we addressed any final questions they had before we let them get to work.  They had 30 minutes to write in class today.

Wow, was just about all I could say about the outcome.  Some of the students started brainstorming by writing out ideas on their whiteboard tables or jotting down a list in their Writer’s Notebook while the rest of the students got right to the poem.  They were focused for a majority of the time, writing their poem.  It was quite amazing.  My co-teacher and I even had a chance to write our own Where I’m From poem.  It was so much fun.  However, the real fun came when we had interested students share their work.  It was amazing.  They used figurative language and captured their story so well.  It was awesome.  Their poems were brilliant and they aren’t even done yet.  I can’t imagine how phenomenal their future drafts will be.

I was so impressed with how today’s activity went.  They worked well and created amazing work.  Was it because of how we introduced the activity?  Did they craft such epic pieces because of the examples used?  Or was it the brainstorming techniques my co-teacher explained?  What allowed today’s activity to go so well compared to last year’s?  Now, don’t get me wrong, this activity was also quite successful last year, but seemed clunky and took way more than one double block to complete.  We accomplished all of this in 80 minutes today.  So, clearly, the changes I made to this lesson made a huge difference.  I can’t wait to see how tomorrow goes when we put together our class Where We’re From poem.  I hope it’s as great as the poems they wrote today.  The moral of the story: Change can bring about positive results.