En la Clase: Love, Community, & Poetry

Vamos a Leer | En la Clase: Love of Community Through PoetryThis week’s En la Clase post continues to look at ways in which to think, teach, and talk about love in our classrooms.  As I was writing last week’s post on teaching about love through immigration, I was reminded of another classroom resource that could also be used to teach about love.  In the fall we reviewed Linda Christensen and Dyan Watson’s book Rhythm and Resistance: Teaching Poetry for Social Justice.  The whole book is wonderful, but given this month’s theme of love, I’d like to highlight one of the lessons that I think could be particularly compelling for creating or deepening the ties of community within our classrooms.  The lesson is available as a pdf here.  In “Remember Me: A farewell poem,” Christensen asks her students to write a Remember Me poem about a fellow classmate.  Christensen uses it at the end of the year, but I also think it could be used during the month of February to expand upon conversations around love of community.  As students are bombarded with the commercialized representations of love, it’s important to provide the space for them to think through these messages, challenge them, and create their own statements on the meaning of love.

In the lesson plan, Christensen writes, “Students need to learn how to build new traditions–ones that don’t involve corporations telling them how to think and feel about death, birth, illness, goodbyes, celebrations, or each other.  By creating practices in our classrooms that honor our time together, our work, and our community, we can teach students how to develop meaningful new traditions.” I couldn’t agree more.  Incorporating “Remember Me” poems into the classroom allows students to think deeply about the people in their classroom community, and hopefully foster a sense of love for that community.

While the lesson plan will provide far more detail about how to teach this activity, I’ll give you a brief overview here.  Once each student is assigned a student to write about, the instructor models different ways to approach the poem.  Christensen provides some great examples to help students understand the idea behind the assignment.  Then they begin researching their classmate.  They may or may not know this person well.  One of the ways they can learn about this person is to interview his or her friends.  I really like this aspect of the assignment.  It continues to create the space for students to strengthen their classroom community through learning more about a fellow classmate by talking to the people who know this person best.  Once all of the poems are completed, time is set aside for each student to read the poem they’ve read and present it to the classmate they wrote about.

The students’ reflections on the writing project demonstrate how powerful it can be.  One student shared, “These poems create bonds between students that carry into their senior year.  The person I got I didn’t know at all.  I never noticed her before I drew her name.  We never talked once during our first three years of high school.  We talk all of the time this year.”  Another student reflected, “I think that’s the point of these poems–to make our classmates feel special.”

So often in the classroom I felt like what my students really needed and wanted was to be seen, to be heard, to be valued, and to be loved. While this can be done in many small ways each day, the “Remember Me” poetry activity communicates very clearly that each one of them is seen, heard, valued, and loved.

I’ll close with a few stanzas of Christensen’s own Remember Me poem she wrote for one of her English classes.  The pdf provides the poem in its entirety.

Remember the day I
asked you to sign up to be Scholars
and you said, “Hell, no?”
well maybe,
but I’m not saying, “I will be a scholar.”

I fell in love with you that day.
Even when you talked back,
because you didn’t bow down to anyone.
You rebelled.
And could never resist cracking silence with your
voices.
And I love you for it.

If you’re looking for more days to teach about love in the classroom, check out the links below to past posts on the topic.

Until next week,

Katrina

2 thoughts on “En la Clase: Love, Community, & Poetry

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