On Thursday morning I grabbed my phone and found, to my surprise, that I had to prove my identity before I could check my email. By that I don't mean put in my passcode, or use my thumbprint, but enter a number where they could send me a code, and then enter another code, and then remember another code I'd created who knows when. All of this happened because I had downloaded software updates overnight. Amazingly, I managed to gain access, but not before I was starting to doubt that I was who I say I am. Talk about getting your adrenaline going first thing in the morning!
It seems pretty common these days that I feel that way, that I may not actually be myself. I'm a teacher who believes in Writer's Workshop, but am I doing WW? Um, not really. I'm a teacher who has silent reading in class every day, but am I doing that this year? Nope. And I'm a teacher who teaches a poem every day - well, except this year. There are several reasons for this, such as the hybrid format, now changing to a less hybrid but still a little hybrid format, and the addition of another grade, and the new online curriculum I've been given to support the hybrid setup. But the main reason is that last year I had 80 minutes with each class each day, and this year I have 45 minutes. Who am I as a teacher this year? Couldn't really tell you.
BUT! I have my PFAMS, or Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School! This book, compiled by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, is rescuing my classroom from a poetry-deprived existence. Each week, PFAMS has a poem for sixth, seventh, and eighth grade, complete with a list of suggestions for how to approach it. The whole thing takes about ten minutes. Done and done. I am only teaching one poem a week instead of four a week plus a song on Friday (my usual plan), but at least I'm teaching one. It is good enough for 2020. And because of PFAMS, the poems are wonderful and already selected.
This is week ten, so today I'll be reading Julie Larios' "Names" with the sixth grade, Mary Quattlebaum's "What I Want to Be" with the seventh grade, and Heidi Bee Roemer's "Food Fest" with the eighth grade. The theme across the board is Food, and all three poems come with activities, which always get me thinking of my own. (The blog, http://pfams.blogspot.com/, is a great resource, too.) If I have extra time I can expand this, but since I usually don't, I can give it the minimum time and still be doing poetry with my kids. (I'm really looking forward to teaching "Names" because it's about nicknames, which are ubiquitous in Haitian culture. In the poem, everyone has nicknames, and the pastries the poem's persona is buying have nicknames too. I'll ask the kids what their nicknames are, and I can already hear the chorus that will ensue.)
Another fun aspect is that I know many of the poets represented in this anthology; many of them are Poetry Friday regulars. In week two I taught "Locker Ness Monster," a very fun poem by Robyn Hood Black. In week three I did Irene Latham's "Biking Along White Rim Road" with the seventh graders, and in week eight, Mary Lee Hahn's "Spiral Glide," a poem about a hawk.
I've taught poems from this book before (I wrote about it here and here and here, among other places), but I've never before used it as it's intended to be used, going through and doing the poems one after another throughout the school year, starting with week one and ending (I hope I hope I hope we'll still be meeting in person in spite of pandemic and social unrest and elections) week thirty-six. I'm so glad to have this book to use, and to help me remember my teacher identity, in this strangest of years.
Today's roundup is here.