Last night the time that no clock can name came rushing in. Earlier in the day I had committed to giving a presentation at my professional organization’s upcoming conference next October. After two years online, the Oregon Council of Teachers of English (OCTE) goes live and in-person. As the Fall Conference Co-Chair, I felt an obligation.
Earlier in the week, I had been sharing my concern with the OCTE President—proposals had stopped trickling in. We’d already had to extend the deadline. Then I read a quote in the latest Rethinking Schools from the editorial, “No More Normal.” “When one of our colleagues, a stellar teacher, was asked to lead an in-service workshop she said, ‘You couldn’t pay me enough to add something else to my to-do list…'” There it was—indisputable.
But by yesterday, the deadline, we had the 12 necessary to forge ahead, or we would as soon as I tendered mine. Reviewing the topics and grade levels represented, I decided on POETRY! Even online my students and I had been at our best when we used poetry to communicate, and we used it often, (a win-win in wacky world). So much of what we’d done before, in the face-to-face world, the writing, the reading, was poetry; poetry transcends boundaries.
I have taught for most of my life, and when I wasn’t teaching, I was learning about teaching. Playing school was my favorite rainy-day activity, and it rains a lot in Portland, much to my playmates’ dismay. But presenting to my colleagues is daunting. I try to do too much; I want to share it all.
At this point, I have taught so many lessons, read so many professional texts, and attended so many professional development events that I’m not sure anymore what ideas, what practices, are mine: I am a creation (perhaps Frankenstein-ish) of my passion, my curiosity, my endless quest to grow. Thinking about how to narrow my focus, I carom from one possibility to another. So —up in the muddy middle of night.
My proposal title, a neon sign, announces “Transformation: The Power of Poetry,” and the description,”Poetry encourages student voice, their personal expression, in a way no other genre can. In this session, we will explore specific scaffolds for poetry—particularly using personification and metaphor. A variety of mentor texts will invite and support students’ own creativity.”
I believe in the transformative experience of poetry play, of pushing figurative language into the spotlight. We’ve been so successful together, my students and I, taking this approach. When I wake up, so I must’ve fallen asleep at some point, I remember who led me in this direction—or at least one name: Sara Holbrook.
I search her. Scholastic pops up. This :
Scholastic is promoting their book, not High Definition, the one that started me on my figurative language campaign, but a new(er) one: From Striving to Thriving Writers. Along with it, materials to support me, my security blanket, my scaffold.
And I buy their book because—there are always new things to learn. But I have my focus. I am back at the beginning of my breadcrumb trail, and I can breathe. Fingers-crossed, I’ll also be able to sleep.