Friday, April 24, 2015

Poetry Friday: Open Mic

We had an Open Mic at school yesterday afternoon, in honor of National Poetry Month, and we're planning another one for next Thursday.  Kids and teachers read poems, some their own, and sang songs.  One teacher played a song and interpreted it into ASL.

How brave, to stand up in front of everyone and share.  What if others don't like what you chose?  Worse, what if it's your own work, and they don't like it?  What if they don't get it?  What if you sit down, sweating, wishing you hadn't read at all?

Today I spent the day in a workshop about assessment.  We're assessing better now; it's not all about slapping evaluations on kids' work.  We're trying to help them learn through our assessments, helping them take risks and not be penalized for them.  But still, everything we teach, we're supposed to assess.

I thought about poems, about sharing our poems.  How should we assess those courageous moments when you stand in front of people and share words you wrote?  What if someone says it isn't good?  I thought about Naomi Shihab Nye saying poetry isn't about measuring, but about love.

Today at our tables, we told horror stories of bad assessment experiences from our own education, times when we were treated unfairly, times when teachers tried to punish with their power to evaluate, times when we were humiliated, compared with others, made to feel dumb.  And it's so easy to do.  I was talking to one of my students this week.  "Where's that poem you were working on?", I wanted to know, and he said, "You said it was bad."  Turns out, I had asked a question about one line that didn't make sense to me, and he put the whole thing away.  It's bad now, he thinks. 

Come to the Open Mic.  I won't be assessing you.  I'll be listening to the words you speak, whether you wrote them or just loved them.  I'll be snapping my fingers to applaud your willingness to show us.  I'll be feeling what you felt, honored by the chance to look briefly inside your brain, to see the workings of it.  Creating, or appreciating what's been created, is part of what it means to be human, and look, you're doing it!  You're taking a risk!  You're standing up, clearing your throat, speaking.  You're a star.

Renee at No Water River has the roundup today, along with a helpful explanation of what Poetry Friday is.


Cathy said...

What if you wish you hadn't read it all? I would hope that would never happen, but you are so right; it is a huge risk. When I think about assessment, I think often the best assessment comes from the writer/poet themselves. What works? What did you try? What do you think you would do differently if you wrote this piece again? It's a difficult balance.


Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

I was sad to hear of the student who jumped to the wrong conclusion about his poem being "bad." Unfortunately, I did the same when I was in HS. It's a difficult time to be brave and put yourself out there. I hope he discovers his starlight soon.

Mary Lee said...

I had a similar experience this week. I tried to help a student with a spot in his opinion writing and he just shut down completely.

Tabatha said...

So much truth in your post! It can be really hard when you are young to handle critique, no matter how gently given. Maybe it is easier when you have a better grasp of what the problems are in your writing (and maybe when you have greater empathy with your audience?) to want to seek solutions...I think in the early stages of writing, you just hope no one will notice the problems.