Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Poetry and the Professor



April is poetry month. I love poetry, even though I've had a troubled past with poetry in school. The words never showed me the same meaning that they showed to everyone else. Instead of celebrating my creativity and original viewpoint, instead of asking me how I came to that conclusion, I was told that I was wrong. This professor told me, "That's not what the poet meant." She wrote it on papers. I felt like I was never able to really get it.

That feeling of ineptitude continues to live deep inside of me, even though my love for poetry is stronger. Sometimes, I feel like a fraud when it comes to poetry. I fear being told how wrong I am. It's like that professor was trying to come between me and poetry, instead of creating a true love for us. I was there and willing to do the work.

This professor taught me a valuable lesson. Building the passion and love for reading and writing is my most important job as a teacher. When students love books and words, they are willing and eager to learn the nuts and bolts of these things. If they are coming from a deficit, always believing that they aren't good enough, the relationship shuts down and valuable learning can't truly happen.

That professor didn't teach me poetry. She showed me the dangers of deficit teaching. I'm grateful that my love for poetry survived and I'm grateful to her for helping mold the teacher I am today.



Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for this amazing platform to write and share writing! What a wonderful community you've created! I'm honored to be part of it. Join us at Two Writing Teachers.

9 comments:

  1. Oh my gosh....ME TOO!!! I will admit that I cringe a bit in April because I see so many others talking about poetry and writing poetry and I just struggle SO MUCH with it. I think it also goes back to being in school and not being able to see what others saw in the words. Glad to know I'm not alone! (Add that one to our list!! :)

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  2. That's exactly how I felt! I'm so glad I'm not the only one! I do love poetry even if I "don't get it," however. Like you, I'm not going to let it stop me from teaching it. Thank you your post, Michelle.

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  3. I so completely understand what you are saying. I always seemed to be the one who saw something different. Heck, it even happened in math. I was the one who solved the problem differently but still ended up with the answer. I blame it on being left-handed! Today when my students share with a different view I just probe a little deeper. "Tell me why you think that?" How lucky am I to be able to see yet another perspective!

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  4. I'm going to leave you a Vox about my misinterpretation of a very famous Robert Frost poem. You'll get a good laugh from it! It is because I was shut down with my interpretation that I grew to dislike poetry in high school. Thankfully, my first literacy coach reinvigorated my love of poetry. Like you, I sought to give my students more freedom -- to write and to interpret -- when we studied poetry together.

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  5. Oh, this makes me want to cry out to teachers everywhere, "Be careful. Your words are powerful." So glad that your love for poetry survived in spite of her (or was it a him?).

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  6. Michelle, your poetry lives on in your heart and in those of others. I will never forget the first time I saw you taking a risk as a Teacher Writer on Chris Lehman's live video. You made a difference because you tried and your poem was lovely. Shame on your teachers who did not recognize your strengths. Your students benefit from your experiences.

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  7. It amazes me how often your story is told, Michelle. How can one person tell the meaning of what another one writes? I bet you share your love and passion and that will help your students start, or continue, loving poetry too. That counts a lot!

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  8. We learn sometimes what NOT to do and WHAT NOT TO SAY! I used to think I could not write and that it was some kind of gift I did not have! How sad....but my thoughts were thanks to a teacher!

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  9. Hi Ms. Haseltine! It's Emma, I was in your English class in 2015-2016, remember? Anyway, just making sure that you know it's me. I TOTALLY get what you were saying at he beginning of this post. I mean, most teachers I had in the past didn't really have any "unique" answers, it was always, "this is the right answer and that's it". I often felt that this was SUPER unfair because maybe the writer had a totally different viewpoint. Maybe there are multiple meanings. But that's the GREAT THING about creative writing, because maybe there's no meaning behind it at all. Maybe it's all nonsense. Sorry that this was such a roundabout explanation, but I think what I was trying to say is THERE IS NO RIGHT ANSWER. Creative writing is about turning words into something different in everyone's head!
    -YOU MATTER!!!

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