When I’m in my classroom, on some days, I feel like a superhero as I fly around the room helping my students overcome problems. Perhaps it’s the teaching cape I wear. Maybe that’s what really does it for me. Being a super teacher fells pretty great. On other days though, I feel like a swashbuckling knight destroying the evil distraction dragons that try to defeat my students. As swords are not permitted at my school, I don’t really have any props to bring this fantasy to life; however, my costume box does hold a shield and plastic sword. Perhaps that’s what makes this feeling more of a reality. Sometimes though, I feel like a merman on a quest to bring order and justice to the sea of chaos otherwise known as my classroom. Ever since I first saw the movie Splash with Tom Hanks, I’ve been in search of a mermaid. I’ve looked in the ocean on every whale watch, to no avail. Teaching is certainly no easy feat, and one does need to harness special powers to be a really great teacher. Feeling like a superhero, knight, or merman helps bring light to the challenge in front of me each and every day when I walk into my classroom. I need to support and challenge my students while also keeping them safe and cared for.
Today, as I zoomed around my classroom, things felt different. I felt different. My lesson on poetry seemed to be really making strides, more so than ever before. My students seemed to fully understand how poetry is different from prose and what makes a poem great. They contributed wise insight to our discussions. It was quite amazing, but slightly unexpected. Then, when the boys began crafting their own, unique poems, things started to get really strange. The boys were crafting masterpieces of words and figurative language. They were taking risks and trying new word combinations. I’ve never had an introductory poetry lesson go as well as today’s. What was going on? Was it the curse of Friday the 13th? Was that the cause of this strangeness today in the sixth grade classroom?
Perhaps the date did have something to do with the result that transpired during my Humanities class this morning. Or maybe it was all of the work I put into creating a unit on figurative language that built up to poetry in a very deliberate and purposeful way. I do believe that was what led to the awesomeness that occurred in my classroom this morning. You see, rather than completing a short and brief introductory lesson on poetry this year, I wanted to have my students explore language, its history, and power before having my students play with words and craft poems of their own. We began our unit by discussing the power of words. The students learned that every word packs a punch, some more than others. They also learned what gives words their power as we dug into etymology. These opening lessons carried us into Wednesday’s activity, in which the students literally played with words to create new and interesting combinations. The students took risks and worked to create unique images and phrases. Then today, I introduced the idea and concept of poetry to my students. After a short discussion on what makes a poem poetic, the students began trying their hand at crafting a poem of their own. I didn’t belabor my explanation of the poetry activity, as I wanted to empower my students to apply the skill of self-awareness and problem solving we’ve been working on all year. The boys got right to work on their verses. I was blown away at what they produced in such a short time, with very little explanation.
Examples of their Greatness
The trees are pillars to the heavens
Streams as pure as the hope that guides us.
Fall leaves, works of art
Caves chances to explore
Branches full of needles as if ready to sew
sticks opportunity for imaginative fun
Warm rocks, places to sit and enjoy it all
Spring leaves cast mystic green light as it to make it all alive, even the shadows
And after it all you end up on the edge of a pool of the woods living in it all,
feeling the life that fills it and makes it beyond perfect
The ball cuts through the grass,
like a swimmer diving into a pool,
it reaches its destination,
it dives into the net lobbying,
like a golf ball hit into the sky,
it sails like odysseus into the goal.
As the students had been exploring language and the power that words hold for the past few weeks in Humanities class, my students had already been wearing their poetic mindset without even realizing it. Along with our class read-aloud novel Booked by Kwame Alexander that is written in verse and provided the students with much fodder and inspiration since we began it at the start of our unit, the structure of the lessons leading up to today’s poetry activity laid the foundation for my students to think like a poet. They were becoming word doctors without even noticing, which I believe led to the fantastic result that I was lucky enough to witness in class today.
To be a superhero teacher, I need to be prepared for every situation or dilemma thrown my way. Planning this figurative language unit in the way I did, allowed my students to feel totally comfortable with the art of poetry. In years past, my students struggled with poetry because they didn’t fully understand how to play with words and use them in new or fun ways. I was forcing them to do something that they were not properly prepared for. Today, my students were more than ready to write their own poems because they now understand how language works. They get it, and it showed today. Sadly, there were no distraction dragons for me to slay in the classroom today because my students were all so committed to crafting amazing and brilliant poems. They were engaged and happy in Humanities class. They were excited to write poetry and put words together in unique and fun ways. It was awesome. I felt more like a puppy in the sidecar of my students’ motorcycle today, observing from the side and being completely happy and content just sniffing at the air, than I did a superhero, knight, or merman. And you know what, that’s exactly how I should feel. I’ve worked hard this year to prepare my students for moments like this. They don’t need my super powers anymore as they have gained their own. They are ready to slay their own dragons and conquer the world without fear, knowing that I’m always there watching them, proudly.