Greetings teacher friends! It has been far too long since I've written about my teaching life. Like everyone else, I've been surviving the pandemic, quarantining, teaching virtually and now hybrid. I often thought of writing and the things I wanted to say to my teaching colleagues across the globe, but after 7+ hours on my computer, my eyes couldn't take more screen time. Blue light glasses only provide minimal relief. But I'm back and excited to be writing again. Today, I'm welcoming my poet friend, Andrew Green from Potato Hill Poetry, as a guest blogger.
I first met Andrew in a weekend workshop in Phoenix, Arizona.
As a teacher-learner, I watched as he inspired us to experience poetry as
writers, teachers and learners. And I thought to myself, “This is something
special.” Fast forward fifteen years. I am teaching in Michigan, and I
stumble over Andrew’s materials in my filing cabinet. I find his
website. I reach out to him. He travels from Boston to Michigan to be our
writer-in-residence. I watch our students, eating poetry out of the palm
of his hand. I think to myself, “His work. It’s still something special.”
He brings a unique perspective to teaching the as he travels the greater
New England area and the rest of the United States. And yes, he’s still
something pretty special.
And now, he travels virtually. My colleagues and I have just booked Andrew for our March is Reading Month celebrations. I couldn't be more excited to welcome his mastery into our classroom again.
. . .
When we feel love and
kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but
it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace.
—Dalai Lama, XIV
I work as a poet in the
schools. My job is to inspire, motivate, and encourage kids to read and write
poetry. I do this by sharing my love of poetry with them. I read them poems. I
share my writing notebooks and writing habits with them. We read poems out loud
and talk about them. We write poems together on the board and then we all write
our own. If we have time, we revise them. Finally, we share and celebrate them
in pairs and as a large group. We notice what we like. We ask questions about
things we don’t understand. We encourage revision. We applaud the effort. And
kids love it. Especially the sharing out loud.
It’s that simple. The trick is to help each student find
a connection to poetry. This can be done by sharing many different poems so
that students see all the ways poems can be written. Once students discover a
poem about a subject they like, suddenly a light goes off. Bingo. Poetry speaks to me. Poetry is about
something I care about. Poetry has purpose and pleasure and power.
This year, we took the act
of kindness as one of our main themes to explore in our poetry. We talked about
what kindness is and how we show it? We talked about the different ways people
can be kind to each other. We read poems about
kindness and then we went on “Kindness Hunts” to see where and how we might
witness it. We discovered these acts all around us.
Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.
Kindness was everywhere. In
our classrooms, lunchrooms, at recess, on the playground, in our kitchens and
homes, on the sports fields, in parking lots and stores, on the sidewalks and
And we wrote about it. We
wrote poems describing what we observed. We shared them. We passed them on to
others. We gave them as gifts.
When writing poems about
acts of kindness, one learns that there are many different kinds of kindness.
There are small momentary kindnesses to strangers – holding the door for
someone, picking up someone’s dropped pencil, letting someone slide into the
long line of morning traffic.
There are planned
kindnesses – writing a poem for someone, taking a day off from work to stay
home and nurse someone back to health, surprising someone with a special
And then, there are the
daily kindnesses to those we love: packing a lunch for someone, driving someone
to school in the morning, helping someone with homework or reading them a story
Poetry is one place to
acknowledge these acts of kindness, to write them down and measure them out, to
describe them in words on the page. By describing these moments on the page, we
make them come to life in a poem – it’s a way of saying thank you to those who
make our lives better.
When you write a poem about
an act of kindness you have many choices.
Your job is to write a lot
about a little act of kindness you witness. Here are some questions,
strategies, and thoughts to consider when writing:
to Ponder when Writing:
1.What are different
types of kindnesses you can write about?
This is a good classroom topic for discussion as a pre-writing exercise.
2.What kinds of things
can you include in your poem?
3.Will the five senses
help you to convey the scene?
can you make about the people, the setting,
the light, the time of day, the
5.Could you include a
line (or more) of dialogue – what are people actually saying?
6.What are some
examples of your topic that you could show us?
7.What struck you the
most about this act of kindness?
8.Will the Five W’s
help you? Who? What? When? Where? Why?
9.How did the people
involved act and react?
What thoughts do you have about this act of kindness?
Ten Exercises for Writing a Poem on
1.Write a poem about an act of kindness that you observe
between two people. This could be in a coffee shop or school cafeteria or
anywhere you observe people.
2.Write a poem about an act of kindness that someone you live
with does for you each and every day.
3.Write a poem about a friend who does something kind for you. What do they do that makes you feel good about yourself and about them?
4.Write a poem about a relative and some act of kindness they
have done for you in the past.
5.Write a poem about an act of kindness you have done for someone else. Don’t be bashful. Describe it in detail.
6. Write a poem about an act of kindness from a teacher or
7.Write a portrait poem describing a person you know who is
kind to you.
8.Write a poem describing your thoughts on what kindness is
and why it’s important.
9.Write a poem using only simile or metaphor describing what
Write a poem about the kindness
of a pet or an animal or something from the natural world.
the best poems are those that don’t tell us, but show us and therefore leave
the conclusions up to the reader. Put on your discovery hat and go discover
kindness out there. Then write your poems.
No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
Here are a few sample poems:
At The Grocery Store
By Andrew Green
As he walks up behind her
At the last minute
To hold the door for him
Who gladly accepts
And in return
Holds the inside door for her
Each of them
Thanking the other
For that brief moment
Before they scurry on their way
He to the produce aisle
For a box of strawberries
She to the deli
For a quarter pound of pastrami.
Kindness of Grass
thing you do
Is see the
is as fresh
strawberry just picked
I love the
between your toes
as soft as your pillow.
unloading the light bulbs
Out of his
To push me
on the swings
and kisses me good-bye
long and weary days
the evil spiders
When I am
too scared to
He asks me
My day was
me good night
B flat, F,
F, G, F, D, E flat, F —
Chin up, elbows down.
F, G, G, F
started to hurt.
Take a break.
down and continued:
B flat, B
flat, B flat, B flat —
Harlow stopped me again
If you're getting tired of the same old virtual routine with your classes or struggling to teach poetry in a virtual setting, why not shake things up a little and offer them a poetry writing workshop with Andrew? Andrew Green, who founded Potato Hill Poetry in 1994, has conducted thousands of writing and poetry workshops for students and teachers in schools across the country. Now, he is offering Virtual Poetry Writing Workshops for students and teachers of grades 1-8. Join in the fun!
Class size: 10-25. Class time: 45-60 minutes. Fee: $125-250 per class. References available.
Now Scheduling Winter/Spring/Fall 2021
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