Review: Backbiters by Debra Leea Glasheen (Montag Press, 2017. 320 pp.)

Karen Ambrosh, Audubon High School, Milwaukee

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In Debra Leea Glasheen’s debut novel, Backbiters, the fifteen-year-old protagonist, Giluli, maneuvers between her own culture of mahogany-eyed mutants and the culture of her pre-evolved high school classmates (pre-evolved means you and me and all humans in our current stage of evolution).

In line with its dystopian genre, the story takes place fifty four years after a Corporate World War of 2020. Giluli wavers between angst and courage as she faces the prejudice that caused her people, the Red Mighties, to create their own Nationland in a territory in which squirrels and deer are extinct, clover and dandelion are nutritional staples, and even the water of the Great Lakes is putrid.

When a pre-evolutionite leader attempts to extort the Nationland’s water by threatening their future and past adoptions of mutant children, Giluli is selected to help the Red Mighty leader, Padrin Kongkassa. Meanwhile Giluli fantasizes about her own pre-evolutionite biofamily and tussles with her brooding childhood friend, Harsh, who can’t seem to compete with the charming Tariq, a pre-evolutionite boy from Giluli’s track team. Giluli is eventually betrayed by those around her and must choose sides.

backbiters

Major themes of the novel are ethnic understanding, intelligent loyalty, coping with anger, protecting the environment, and anti-bullying. I am using it in my 10th-grade English classroom with great success. The students love the familiarity of the Wisconsin setting, and the exotic qualities of a warped environment caused by a nuclear war.

Backbiters is a rich story with layers of thought-provoking concepts, all presented in a readable style and believable futuristic world. The story touches on many social issues with sensitivity and humanity. It has traditional teen experiences—crushes, identity issues, competition, conflict, and hope – all wrapped in a culturally diverse landscape. The theme of intelligent loyalty provides for rich conversations with students, giving them decision-making scenarios in which they can put themselves in the protagonist’s place and visualize what they would do in her shoes.

Glasheen deserves praise and recognition for creating such a strong female character for teens. Giluli has all of the normal insecurities of a teenager with questions about life and love, but when presented with a challenging task and high risk decisions, she stands by herself and finds her own way. Giluli’s inner dialogue is powerfully and memorably written. My students were able to imagine many possible scenarios and challenges for Giluli to face as she grows and develops in future books. Let’s hope there are more on the way soon!

Teaching materials for Glasheen’s novel are available at debraleeaglasheen.com; Glasheen is also available to speak to classrooms in person or via Skype.

Review: Teacher Man: A Memoir by Frank McCourt (Scribner, 2005. 272 pp.)

Thomas Hansen, past Illinois State Supervisor for
K-12 Foreign Language Programs, Illinois State Board of Education

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I loved the other great books by Frank McCourt, but I had never read this one. I was lucky to come across a copy in one of my favorite Chicago thrift shops—where I find lots of goodies! Angela’s Ashes is one of my favorite books, and other writing by McCourt calls to me also. I hope I can find the time to read the rest of his work.

In Teacher Man, McCourt is able to make the tragic something we can endure and the crazy something we can laugh at. He can also take the impossible, the terrible, and the disgusting and turn it into the stuff of lessons—literally and symbolically. He teaches through his story-telling.

teacherman

Teachers will all see through a lot of his yarns and predicaments … discovering underneath a lot of the foolishness of everyday life the author’s ability to teach. Through his writing, through this book, and of course through the classroom activities and memories he shares, he is always a teacher.

Remember that he was a teacher of English, and of literature, and most importantly, of writing. It is his unorthodox approaches to the teaching of writing that any teacher will marvel at in this book. Certainly good teachers of writing will see themselves in his actions and words used for many years in the classroom.

He tells some very heartfelt stories, and tells us about the crazy characters he teaches in many classes during his career. He also tells us about the crazy bosses, and the excellent ones, he has to deal with over the years. We have all had those bosses who “just do not get it” and others whose shoes we would gladly shine for them. His encounters with colorful personalities in the classroom and hallway are just as fun as the ones with helpful or deranged or intrusive parents in the different – and disparate – types of schools in which he teaches.

He taught in public high schools in New York City and a year in the college system there. His ancestors, family, and neighbors of old in Ireland, and his current comrades in America, show the influences all the others people have in an individual’s life. He has met many interesting people in his life, had relationships, and struggled to figure out the meaning of life (he even worked on the docks). He gives us great insight to all kinds of immigrant experiences, including his own. 

He includes some of the funniest passages I have ever seen in a book. His style and his ability to manipulate the reader—through the use of sardonic and twisting adventures—are enthralling aspects of his writing. Teachers will love how he talks about all the typical personalities in a high school class and the way he lets each of them shine in their own way.

The story is, of course, a wonderful one if people are into teaching. Although others will like the book—especially if they have grown up with tales of Ireland in their kitchen—but teachers will by far be the ones who enjoy this book. What are you waiting for?

Just One More Thing

Amy L Menzel, Waukesha West High School, almenzel @ waukesha.k12.wi.us
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We’ve all seen the teacher memes. You know, the all-too-relatable ones that depict teachers eager and energized on the first day of school, overwhelmed and exhausted on the last day (or at the end of the first week). We go in ready to roll, ready to do things bigger and better than we’ve ever done them and sometimes we do, but all of August’s ambitions have tough competition when faced with dreary December days and the mania that is May. It’s easy to feel dejected when you realize it’s February and you haven’t made good on your promise to infuse more poetry into your lessons, or when you realize you never made those bookmarks you’ve been promising students since October … and it’s now March. So much to do, so little time: the adage of the teacher.

That’s why I’ve decided to focus my efforts, to identify one specific change I can and WILL make each school year that will most benefit my students and their learning. This one thing is a non-negotiable. Come what may (and May will come), I will make sure this one thing gets done.

I have Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher to thank for this shift in perspective. Last summer I had the good fortune of attending their conference hosted by CESA 6, where they started the first day with a quote from Steve Jobs: “To go forward, you have to leave something behind.” Read: you can’t do it all. Phew. Right from the get-go I was given permission to let something go. (Cue that song from Frozen. It’s just too bad it can’t be standardized testing.)

As the two-day conference continued, the sentiment shared in those first few minutes was reiterated in various ways. “We tell students what matters by what we pay attention to,” I wrote in my notes after, I’m sure, one of them said it. It reminded me of a phrase a yoga instructor regularly used: “Where your eyes go, your body will follow.” The conference was turning out to be a yoga session for my teaching mind. I was bending and stretching and centering my teacher self. I was finding focus.

Kittle and Gallagher’s book 180 Days: Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents begins with a chapter titled “Start with Beliefs.” It’s more English teacher yoga, guided instruction for thinking through your purpose and approach. It guides you to find your focus and prioritize your efforts since, as they note in the closing thoughts in this chapter, “the budget of time is limited.”

So it all comes back to that ol’ adage: so much to do, so little time.

I’m no longer overwhelmed by this reality. Instead, I’m inspired. I have this currency of time and I get to choose how to spend it. I need to spend it wisely, of course, since there’s not a lot of it, so I need to think about what will best help my students learn and grow as readers, writers, and thinkers.

Last year I determined that the one move I was going to make was to incorporate daily book talks. Every day I would talk about a different book. This was non-negotiable. And it was SMART. Not only is the practice backed by research by Wozniak (2011), Homan (2015), and Cremin et al (2014) (in which it is noted that “The will to read influences the skills as well”), so it’s smart in the traditional sense, but it was also smart in the SMART sense. It was a goal that was Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Based. It provided me focus for making a move that would help engage and empower my students.

I think transparency in teaching is important and spend a significant amount of time discussing the rationale behind my teaching and our practice, so I shared my SMART goal with my students on day one. I told them why I was going to book talk every day (beyond the fact that it would be a ton of fun), and I told them that I wanted to be held accountable. I made a book talk display to preview the week’s coming literary attractions and to keep me honest about my efforts. “If you don’t see new book covers in the frames each week, call me out!” I said. I also told them to let me know if they felt I wasn’t providing enough suggestions in a certain genre or if they weren’t feeling any of the titles I was suggesting. “These book talks are for you, folks, so let me know what you want to hear!” I took requests and sometimes created themes for a week of book talks. One week was designed in response to some not-so-tactful feedback I received from a self-identified “non-reader.” “This week’s for you, Bobby!” I said, determined to make a reader out of him yet.

 

Menzel1I see each of my classes four times each week.
Every day a new book talk.


And I kept at it. I read about books and I talked about books, and the interest, if not the love (but, yes, sometimes the love) spread. While I was focused on this one thing, I realized that I was telling students what matters by showing them what I pay attention to. Reading matters and I was focused on reading so that they would read and become better readers, better writers, and better thinkers. My eyes were focused on books and my students’ eyes followed. It was all because of just one thing.

 

Menzel2I added this approach after seeing it modeled on social media.
More books, more talk, more reading.


I finished the year having book talked a different title every single day. I dropped the last book after my last book talk of the year–like a mic drop, because I’m nerdy like that. And because I was proud. I was proud of having completed my goal, but more proud of the progress my students had made as readers, writers, and thinkers. It was all because of just one thing.

Now that I have the book talk routine down, I’m going to focus my efforts this year on daily notebook work. It’ll be like the research-based practice I started at the beginning of last year–the practice that fizzled as the year went on. This year, there will be no fizzling. There will be writing. Every day. I will pay attention to this because it matters. Students will come to understand it matters because it will be what I pay attention to. When everything else vies for my teaching attention and I feel frazzled and overwhelmed, I will find my teaching center, and further student success, in just this one thing.

I’m already envisioning our collective celebratory pen drop after another successful year.

 

References
Cremin, T., Mottram, M., Collins, F. M., Powell, S., & Safford, K. (2014). Building communities of engaged readers: Reading for pleasure. London: Routledge.

Homan, J. S. (2015). Using book talks and choice to increase reading motivation (Master’s thesis, University of Wisconsin-River Falls). Retrieved from https://minds.wisconsin.edu/handle/1793/72149

Wozniak, C. L. (2011). Reading and talking about books: A critical foundation for intervention. Voices From the Middle, 19(2), 17-21. Retrieved from the ERIC database. (Accession No. EJ951876)

Because Student Voice Promotes Equity in the Classroom

Educators in pluralistic classrooms are frustrated, guarded, and exhausted from addressing complicated current events with their students – especially after the 2016 election. Basing classroom assignments on headlines plastered across media is not only difficult but scary; however, in the tumultuous political climate of today’s America, the ability to provide a community where students are free to express their voices reinforces cultural and political literacy and ensures an inclusive classroom environment.  

In my classroom, I utilize the writing of poetry as a mechanism for self-expression, political debate, and controversial conversations. These assignments not only require students to understand current events, but also to explore their opinions of the world around them. While many teachers may shy away from partaking in discussions of these issues, I find that poetry allows students to discover their own voices while simultaneously exploring complex terrains of political discourse. These student-written poetry assignments encourage students to think critically and contextually about current events and how they pertain to their own unique experiences.

“So, what?”
During my years creating high school English, speech, and debate lessons, I always asked myself, “so, what?” What does any topic matter to someone with different lived experiences than mine? Lessons are not worth teaching if they do not allow for students to learn and develop from a position that is meaningful to them. The classroom should be a place where those of all religions, races, and socioeconomic classes can learn through the prism of their own experiences, while being introduced to the viewpoints of others. Poetry pushes students to move beyond regurgitation of facts and figures and into a process of developing their own unique voices.

My students, both in high school and in college, remind me of the poet, Steve Colman: “I wanna hear a poem / I wanna learn something I didn’t know / I wanna say ‘yes’ at the end, / because I’m sick of saying ‘so?’” (Simmons, 2005, p. 3). It is this “so?” feeling that prohibits students from thriving academically in any classroom, while simultaneously and systematically excluding diverse voices from being heard. When students fail to see a personal connection to a lesson or fail to see how a piece of literature matters to them, they stop paying attention, and with good reason. They lose their voice in the classroom, turning their literature studies into meaningless text devoid of the humanity, which we as English teachers want our students to appreciate.

 

The Difference is Context
In my university multicultural education courses, we focus on social justice conversations that make many educators nervous: race, socio-economics, gender, sexual orientation, religion, citizenship, and ability. These issues scare some K-12 educators, too, since “the phrase ‘teaching for social justice’ may conjure images of facing off against opponents or carrying protest placards while marching in the streets” (Kelly, 2012, p. 151). However, many high school literature pieces commonly studied provide a natural platform for these discussions to take place without feeling forced or even inappropriate. For example, conversations about racism arise organically from Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird or Gaines’ A Lesson Before Dying. Why is it we can explore and discuss these societally relevant topics in the context of required readings, but not in current events?

Furthermore, as educators, is it not our job to bridge the context of literature into our students’ lives? If we do not allow students to link today’s events to what we are reading in canonical classics – if we fail to make those connections – we hinder student voices. Poetry focused on current events allows them to discover and understand their position(s) on issues, which leads to increased engagement and ownership of their education and individual beliefs.

 

The Possibilities of Poetry
Inevitably, every semester a first-year teacher candidate (TC) asks, “why haven’t we ever talked about these things before?” I look around the room at many heads nodding in agreement. While these future educators have studied racism through a historical lens in high school classes, they indicate they have never spoken about systemic oppression and privilege, or had deep discussions about contemporary racism. This suggests a lack of current events discussions and/or correlations with mandated curriculum in their schooling. If students never discuss issues of social justice, identity, and oppression inside the classroom, we are not providing equity for our students who live these issues outside the classroom.

While I have the luxury of including poetic writings in my university classroom, I am aware poetry gets a bad rap in PK-12 classrooms. I know many English educators who do not even like poetry – as it is often rooted in archaic language and texts – burdening educators and students already facing too many curricular demands. My hope is to challenge teachers opposed to curricular-based poetry to reevaluate and attempt current events-based poetic exploration as a platform for social justice and student self-actualization.

In order to promote these values, I ask TCs in my multicultural education classes to write poetry regarding current events, giving them the flexibility to write from their perspective and style. Thomas (2015) offers that “school with less poetry is school with less heart. School with no poetry is school with no heart” (p. 92), and I am consistently encouraging future teachers to find their hearts. Instead of forcing upon them structured argumentative essays, which identify barriers to systemic oppression or analyze the complexities of sexual identity, I ask TCs to write their ideas poetically – which provides them with voice – on a current event or issue.

I find that students produce stronger arguments when they write or speak from their perspectives, not what they think the instructor wants them to regurgitate to earn an “A.” Coates (2015) offers that “poetry aims for an economy of truth … poetry was the processing of my thought until the slag of justification fell away and I was left with the cold steel truths of life” (pp. 21-22). Here among these truths, the emotional underpinning of poetry as human experiences, students learn to make an argument; here among these truths, they find their voices.

Poetic Response to Current Events
During fall of 2017, as part of an ongoing research project to demonstrate this pedagogical strategy, I asked three TCs (who eventually co-authored this article with me) to write two poems each, offering insight into a 2017 current event. I chose TCs who plan to teach secondary English, and I gave them as much latitude in style or subject as they needed, only ensuring they wrote about current events. When they finished their poetry, I asked them to write a response explaining 1) why they selected the issue, and 2) why they felt it would be important for their future students to learn about each current event. As a result, the TC-written poems dove into the political turmoil over Civil War monuments and White supremacy in Charlottesville, the 2017 U.S. immigration ban, and aid for Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.  

These poems address complicated, multi-layered issues of politics, belief systems, religion, and perspectives of life. Giving TC-participants the opportunity to express themselves resulted in greater appreciation of difficult discussions that arise in pluralistic classrooms, which in turn creates “open classroom climates that empower students of all ages to engage with complex issues, stand up for their positions, and work to understand differing opinions” (McCafferty-Wright & Knowles, 2016, p. 117). Moreover, I engage these difficult discussions with my college students now, as I did with those in the high school classroom, because student voice promotes equity in the classroom.

Neutrality is Not an Option
Max, in his first year of education courses, explains his rationale for writing the poem, “Somewhere in Charlottesville”:

As a kid, I had heard the stories of racist groups, but I never thought of them as real people. To me, they were ethereal, used only to show the epitome of prejudice. I wrote this poem because I had to wrestle with a new reality. When students learn about current events like Charlottesville, they must learn that neutrality on this issue is not an option. If we do not show students that these monsters are real, we cannot expect them to stand and fight when those same monsters rear their heads.

 

“Somewhere in Charlottesville”
Somewhere amidst the cosmos,
Through blackness and through eons,
There sits a younger me,
Who is not afraid of demons.

Somewhere beneath the steel gaze,
Of men who fought for tyranny,
Lies a dying woman,
Mowed down before she’d flee.

Somewhere in an echo chamber,
A man hears “Heil” and cheers,
Desperate to spread his message,
And aroused by the world’s fears.

Right here in this moment,
My blood has curdled like milk,
Are these men simply lost and uneducated,
Or monsters frolicking in their filth?

Somewhere in my skull,
My synapses and neurons wage war,
The boogie man has shown his face,
Stepping into daylight from lore.

Now I look toward heaven,
Angst no smile can conceal,
One day that younger me will find,
The monsters he fears are real.


After watching Vice News’ episode “Charlottesville: Race and Terror,”  Max explained that the “poetry assignment pushed me beyond memorization and regurgitation of statistics and into a critical analysis of my beliefs and opinions.” This analysis is felt in the emotional details that shaped his poem.  He furthers, “this process incited me to advocate for the awareness of racism in this country, and the suffering that comes from writing such evils off as dead and gone.”

Who is an American?
In “Lady Liberty’s Change of Heart,” a second-year TC, Kyle, sets the context of his poem:

An executive order at the beginning of Donald Trump’s presidency barred people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 days, refugees for 120 days, and barred Syrian refugees indefinitely. For a nation often known for providing aid to other countries in times of need, this was a step backward for US diplomacy. Many of the countries included in this ban face war, famine, or even genocide, and an order like this might prevent the escape of many innocent people and families. Many people come to the US with the aspiration of living comfortably and safely – so what sort of message does it send to Muslim citizens when our president says, ‘we don’t want them here’?

 

“Lady Liberty’s Change of Heart”
Who put a stop sign in Lady Liberty’s hand?
Once, a beacon of hope for those looking for a better life
Escaping famine, war, and genocide
One last chance at survival and prosperity.

What was once a graceful face to welcome the World
Turned sour at the words of a bitter man
Who told her she need not help these people
For they cause more harm than good.

And now she stands in New York Harbor,
Shooing away those desperate souls,
“For they’re too dangerous,” she says,
“We don’t want them here.”


In response to immigration bans, Kyle explains that “Poetry grants us the ability to not only share what we think about current issues but also showcase our passion for a given topic. Anyone can spew out an essay full of facts and statistics, but you’ll never find the same voice or passion that you would find in a poem.”


…And Other Types of Injustices
After writing the poem, “Oh, Mr. President,” a third-year TC, Lizzie, offered that

Political tensions have peaked following the 2016 presidential election, leaving no race or age demographic unmarred by the current societal climate. The White House has attempted damage control, trying to remind the nation through outreach efforts that we are all Americans, and if we stick together, we can achieve anything. However, when Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, these messages did not seem to apply. Youth have empowered many social movements and will continue to do so. Therefore, discussing currents events such as this one are not only relevant but necessary, to keep students informed of who is in need in our country and how we can help.

 

“Oh, Mr. President”
Oh, Mr. President,
Did you think it was enough?
To bring us lights and cameras
And toss rolls of paper towel into a sea of desperate faces
Devastated by the path of a ruthless Maria
Then hit again by the wake of your disregard.

Oh, Mr. President,
Have you forgotten your purpose?
To protect, love and serve
The people of this “great” nation
Who lost electricity and heartbeats
Lost our faith in the government
Who turned a blind eye.

Oh, Mr. President,
What did you mean?
When you said we
“Threw your budget out of whack”
When you said
“This is nothing compared to Katrina.”

Oh, Mr. President,
Do you find me greedy?
We may need resources but
Your wake requires more damage control
Than that of most other natural disasters.

Oh, Mr. President,
Aren’t you my president, too?
My complexion and compassion
May differ from yours,
But can you really pick and choose?

 

Lizzie explains how using poetic inquiry changed her perspective: “Had I written about this current event in a paper for a social studies class, I would have read and reread my writing to locate and eliminate any potential tone of bias or distrust.” However, by utilizing poetic inquiry to investigate, Lizzie was able to “reflect… without muting my opinions – my voice –” which led her to “better understand what happened” and, in turn, further investigate “what can be done to prevent such an event in the future.”


Facing Resistance
I admit it: educators might face resistance from students when introducing poetic expression to dive into complicated topics. For many, the mere idea of getting their students to buy into poetry is a daunting task. However, TCs who tell me they are not poetic, “for whom poetry feels inaccessible” (Lahman et al., 2011, p. 894), are the ones who end up surprising themselves most. We start with writing poetry about ourselves; we write a privilege poem that evaluates our own lives before we imagine writing about others. Because “Poetry’s potential to offer a stimulating way of reflecting on our lives and the lives of others is great” (Foster, 2012, p. 753), I stress that poetry is personal and I cannot judge them based on what they submit.  I can only expect sincerity, stressing that process is more important than product. When I build trust with my students, encouraging them to take risks, they produce brilliant works of art. Are all their couplets perfectly rhymed? No. Is every line of poetry perfectly sculpted and shaped? No. Do they find their own voice? Yes.

I embolden them to write what they want, with few limitations and an abundance of encouragement to take risks. This risk-taking accomplishes two goals: 1) it provides students room to fail; and 2) it allows students to say whatever they want about a topic. The power of voice in poetry provides a platform for self-discovery and growth, while opportunities to say what they want fosters independence. These two factors together equalize the classroom, where each student partakes in difficult discussions on complex concerns.

The use of poetry to examine contemporary topics is not unique to my university classroom; these methods can also thrive in middle or high school. First, incorporating current events into a course, alongside mandated curriculum, aligns with expectations of listening and speaking in English language arts standards. Second, asking students to write poetry, rather than a full essay on a current event, allows for student voice to rise on an issue and not take too much time from mandated curriculum. Third, poetic expression encourages students to problematize ideas and concepts beyond the confines of their lived experiences, ultimately pushing them to define their own perspective of the world while still in school.

Practicality in the Classroom
When tackling curriculum, teachers often start with an idea, develop a plan, and negotiate their way through strengths and weaknesses of an activity or unit, and poetry is no different.  Over the last few semesters, I have tried numerous ways to incorporate poetry in my classroom – some have worked exceedingly well, others have not. From those experiences, I offer a few practical suggestions for teachers wanting to use current events-based poetic exploration: 1) start small; 2) use your curriculum to explode a moment; and 3) be careful not to have students speak for – rather learn from – others.  

First, there is no need for curricular redesign to add current events-based poetry into your classroom.  For example, if your class reads Sandra Uwiringiyimana’s How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child, a warm-up would be to ask students to read current periodicals on the country’s complicated discussion(s) regarding border security, refugees, and immigration.  Instructing students to then write a haiku, limerick, or cinquain about what they have read makes a simple assignment. Whether you allow them to read poems aloud in class or not, this task of writing current events-based poems 1) reinforces the link between literature and today’s political climate; 2) prompts students to recall poetic structures; and 3) offers an opportunity for students to express their opinions without spending extensive class time on an assessment.

Second, specificity is key.  I find when students focus on exploding a particular moment, line, phrase, or paragraph in a current event article, instead of trying to encapsulate the entire article into poetic form, they dig deeper into understanding implications of the news.  For example, ask students to correlate Crooks in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and issues of race with an article about Black Lives Matter, or gender inequities associated with Curly’s Wife and the #MeToo movement.  Inspire students to focus on details rather than attempt to solve world problems within the confines of a poem. Specificity, I find in my classroom, promotes both appreciation for others and authentic opportunities for voice.

Moreover, it is important to ensure that students are not speaking for others, rather learning from them.  This “speaking for” mentality could lead to increased frustrations, stereotyping, or even silencing marginalized voices. Rather, use poetry as a means to investigate what others may encounter in their lives.  I have learned from my own poetic explorations that it is not beneficial to have White students speaking as if they are people of color, nor is it helpful for men to speak for women; instead, use poetic forms to explore how current events impact who we are, what we think, and how we perceive the world around us.  Rooting poetry in published current events sources and/or pairing with corresponding curriculum prohibits these missteps from happening.

If our goal is a socially just classroom where every student feels free to express themselves, educators should create frameworks that allow risk and growth. As “creativity begets more creativity” (Felleman-Fattal, 2017, p. 72), students must explore strategies to interact with curriculum in a way that makes sense to them. Poetry addressing current events allows for students to make mistakes – tackling historical lessons of core curriculum – while simultaneously making connections to the realities of today. Equity in the classroom is promoted when sincerity is valued over quality; process, not product, is key; and learners are able to express ideas based on their own experiences, feeling free to explore without judgment.

 

References
Coates, T.-N. (2016).
Between the world and me. Toronto: CNIB.

Felleman-Fattal, L. R. (2017). Action research in preservice teachers’ arts-integration pedagogies for social justice teaching and learning. Childhood Education, 93(1), 66-72. https://doi.org/10.1080/00094056.2017.1275244

Foster, V. (2012). What if? The use of poetry to promote social justice. Social Work Education, 31(6), 742-755. https://doi.org/10.1080/02615479.2012.695936

Kelly, D. (2012). Teaching for social justice. Our Schools / Our Selves, 21(2), 135-154. Retrieved from the Education Research Complete database. (Accession No. 86208456)

Lahman, M. K., Rodriguez, K. L., Richard, V. M., Geist, M. R., Schendel, R. K., & Graglia, P. E. (2011). (Re)forming research poetry. Qualitative Inquiry, 17(9), 887-896. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800411423219

McCafferty-Wright, J., & Knowles, R. (2016). Unlocking the civic potential of current events with an open classroom climate. Social Studies Research & Practice, 11(3), 112-121. Retrieved from the Education Research Complete database. (Accession No. 121117280)

Simmons, D. (Ed.). (2003). Russell Simmons def poetry jam on Broadway–and more: The choice collection. New York: Atria.

Thomas, P. L. (2015). In defense of poetry: “Oh my heart”. English Journal, 104(4), 90-92.