Serendipity, Again

Nuance is everything!

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 :

Good Morning!

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.

10 thoughts on “Serendipity, Again”

  1. OOOO I will definitely think about attending the OCTE conference this year – even though I am still a little anxious about in-person events. I did Poetry Friday every week last year and LOVED it. The kids groaned at first, but most came around. I like to think they’ll appreciate it more when they are older.

    1. Adrienne, it would be great to actually talk to you! I’ll keep you posted on new developments. Hope to see you there. Poetry…LOVE!

  2. There are so many wonderful things in your post today! I resonate with the idea of what is truly MINE as far as teaching and techniques go? I too have absorbed and read and observed and made so many practices my own with a little of this, and a pinch of that!
    I am excited you are teaching a session on poetry as well! How amazing! It is going to be great.
    Thank you for your words today.

  3. So glad you got the number of proposals you need. Your topic sounds exciting. Poetry gives students a chance to express themselves in a way that prose can’t. Word choice and placement become more important.

    1. Yes, and truthfully, I think they worry less about those things like punctuation and capitals while drafting, freedom! t’s when we start revision, and noticing the choices poets make, that it gets truly interesting, and they start to show their understanding of the way poems—and language—work. (Feel better!)

  4. I like this statement: “I am a creation (perhaps Frankenstein-ish) of my passion, my curiosity, my endless quest to grow.” I wish you joy of learning and a fabulous experience as a presenter.

  5. Great reflection, Trish! I love – “Poetry transcends boundaries.” Sure does! I took a workshop of Sara Holbrook probably a decade ago and got so much inspiration. Going to check out that book! Thank you!

  6. How exciting! Poetry was my favorite form to teach. Unfortunately, I think too many teachers shy away from it because it can be tough. However, students do amazing things with it once they get going. Do keep us posted on how this turns out, especially for those out of state readers who are curious and would love to attend your session.

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