After 30 days of writing a poem a day, I asked my students to take some time to reflect on what they learned from participating in the challenge. So, in the spirit of full participation, I am also taking the time to reflect on all I learned from this poetry challenge.
My thoughts seem to have coalesced into four categories: learning from poetry, learning from writing, learning from students, and learning from blogging.
Learning from Poetry
Poetry offers opportunities to express feelings, to practice crafting vivid descriptions, to bring others into your view of the world. Like the sunset, poetry makes everything more beautiful. Each word contributes to the painting the reader experiences, blending and building, As I read poems written by others–published or not–I found inspiration for my own poetry. Poems became mentors for my poems, they opened my eyes to my own experiences, allowing me to see my own life in new ways.
Learning from Writing
The only way to be a writer is to write. I have learned the lesson again that when I write daily, writing comes. My brain and my hands seem to respond to the daily habit of putting words on a page. Knowing I will write each day helps me pay attention, helps me think about connections between thoughts, actions, and ideas, and helps me articulate my thinking. When I write daily I get into that mode we in the writing project often call writer’s brain. It is a space where experiences become fodder for written expression. When I expect to write, I write more and better and explore life’s possibilities through language. Writing helps me branch out, trying on new ideas in different ways.
Learning from Students
I have watched my students blossom as writers. Stilted, ordinary poems have become unexpected expressions of whimsy, of fear, of love, of exploration. My students have become a community of writers who are interested in the writing of others and who are eager to share their writing with others. They are talking about their inspiration, about their struggles as writers, about their ideas for revision, and finding poems in their baseball games, in their dance rehearsals, in the night sky, and in the books we read. I have loved watching their poetry grow in sophistication and I have noticed that writing has become less daunting, although no less challenging as they strive to express themselves.
Learning from Blogging
Blogging my 30 days of poetry has been a public affirmation of poetry as a valuable learning activity. I not only made my own poetry public, but I also showcased the poetry of my students. Giving my students an authentic audience was motivating. They were eager to share their poetry and have it appear on my blog. Many checked my blog to see whose poem they would find. Blogging each day also made real my commitment to being a teacher-writer. I not only teach writing, I write. Being vulnerable as a writer helps me remember that this writing thing is not easy…and is filled with pitfalls. I remember each day when I work with students that writing needs nurturing…and writers do too!
Thanks to all of you who read and liked and commented during our 30-day poetry challenge. I look forward to reading my students’ reflections and hearing their perspectives on this learning. I’ll be sure to share their insights with you too!
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Kim Douillard is an elementary school teacher and the director of the San Diego Area Writing Project.