Friday, September 21, 2007

I am....or not

Lary Kleeman and I teach an integrated U.S. History and Language Arts class to freshmen. Lary has the students creating "I Am From" poems that ask the students to reveal who they are by writing about "what" they are from. Confused? So was I, but it's a great exercise in understanding who you are by looking at the past. To set an example for the students, Lary shared his "I Am From" poem with the students. One line in his poem refers to Binks, the ranch dog, who saved his dad. Without Binks, Lary wouldn't be here, he and I wouldn't be teaching together, students wouldn't know bird calls, etc. Lary has the students present their poems and we heard poetry that conjured up great images and stories to share. Then Lary asked me to present. Now I'm no wallflower, but I don't necessarily enjoy sharing my writing--writing for me is like a window on my soul--perhaps that's why I'm a reluctant blogger. But, I figured if 9th graders could share their writing, if Lary could do birdcalls, I could take a chance and share my poem. So I did. Even for a seasoned professional (or, ancient veteran teacher), I found it hard to recite my poem in front of the kids. Eye contact was hard to make and my stomach lurched, but I did it. Then Lary challenged me to put it on my blog. So I am. No eye contact, but my stomach is lurching...
"Cotton Farmers and Gamblers"
I am from windswept plains and sun-drenched earth.
I am from horny toads, bullfrogs and cockroaches.
I am from kolaches and strudel,
brisk German accents and soft Czech sounds.
I am from high dive acts and circus barkers
and German midgets with smuggled books.
I am from Irish wit and a gambler who died too soon.
I am from "Pack up and go!"
Texas, Louisiana, California, Oklahoma, Colorado
I am from a grandpa who foiled the Klan
and a grandma who waltzed.
I am from cotton farmers and a burned, dead child.
I am from a Texas Aggie, Sul Ross volunteer, a conservative
and a French horn playing drum majorette, a liberal
who treasures the written word.
I am from a grandma who swam with sharks to save me.

19 Comments:

At 8:42 AM , Blogger Karl Fisch said...

Wow. Just wow.

 
At 7:28 PM , Blogger Barbara S. said...

I agree...just WOW!

 
At 7:41 PM , Blogger Dr. Bad Ass said...

So Great! And I know exactly what you mean about being a bit leery of sharing your writing. I'm doing a writing workshop with my preservice teacher students (English Ed majors) in my writing methods class, and it was with much trepidation that I decided to write about my experiences teaching overseas. Facing our fears makes us stronger; facing this particular fear makes us part of the community in our classrooms.

 
At 7:43 PM , Blogger Jeanette Johnson said...

Thanks for your honesty, both with your post and your poem. I'll be sharing this with members of our staff - I'm so impressed.

 
At 12:11 AM , Blogger K. E. said...

Yes - Wow! is the word. You make it look so easy - just think long, hard and sensitivly into your past, and then string perfectly well-chosen elegant words together. Thanks for overcoming the lurching stomach. You have set a very inspiring example.

 
At 5:19 PM , Blogger Connie Masson said...

I loved it and it inspired me. Your poem caused within me a desire to write one of my own and thoughts of the unique, special ideas that I'd like to share in mine. I'll bet you caused some of those same stirrings and energy in your students too.

You also gave me new insight into the private world of my 14 year old writer. She just doesn't like to share her writings with anyone in most cases. You helped me to have a greater understanding of that, to let go of wondering why and worrying about it.
Thanks!

 
At 7:27 PM , Blogger Jim Gates said...

I loved it! What a great exercise , too. I'm sure it made you think back to so many people and so many events. I'd love to know more. Like, for example, about the one who waltzed. Or the one who swam with sharks to save you.

Fantastic! I hope that by now your stomach has calmed down.

Thank you for sharing.

 
At 7:35 PM , Blogger Jim Gates said...

OH... are the student's poems online anywhere? I'd love to read them, as well.

 
At 8:30 AM , Blogger S. Cornils said...

Karen,

This post is inspirational. What an awesome assignment for humanities and a perfect reflection for everyone to consider about their own lives! Thanks for taking the risk to go public with private thoughts. I know it is huge.

 
At 12:04 PM , Blogger Joan Hitchens said...

Well done Karen! You need to write more!

 
At 7:20 AM , Blogger Candace Hackett Shively said...

I think we should request that Blogspot, Blogger, WordPress, and all the other blog tools add a mandatory "I am From" link for all bloggers to share a piece like this. It is far more potent than an "About" page. And a blog is a perfect place to share it (no eye contact!) Thank you.

I, too, would love to read some written by students. If they can paint with enough perspective on what makes them who they are at age 14-15, your teaching team is doing a marvelous job. Even if they are stuck in "two-point perspective" at this point in the year, I have a feeling that revisiting these pieces near the end of the year would add the third dimension. And wouldn't it be interesting to hear why they add some things and take others out? I see fodder for college essays and job applications in two and a half years...

Bravo on a great idea from both of you.

 
At 8:47 AM , Blogger Marian Gerlich said...

My sister never ceases to amaze me. Reading her poem, even I learned some things about her that I didn't know, and remembered things about us that I had forgotten. Wow is the word. But, then, I knew that many years ago. Karen, you go girl......Marian Gerlich

 
At 9:25 AM , Blogger mhampshire said...

Karen,
I know that sharing your reflection with your students was difficult. Though I also believe that moments like that create the kind of positive relationship between teacher and student that is invaluable. I also understand your reluctance to "put it out there". We share similar concerns. The comments you received after you posted are indeed positive, people were "inspired", some "wowed". Though, as is the case for any work of literature, there is the real element of a reader's interpretation of that work. This is in fact the beauty of the written word; we all get an opportunity to put a bit of ourselves into the work. However, I cannot believe, nor could anyone convince me, that the power of this work didn't come in your reading it to whom you read it and when; that the connection made on that day will impact all of those kids and yea you too, maybe forever. I can't believe that a blog has that power, your voice fluxuations, nervous pauses, shaking hands and tears held back cannot be experienced here. I am not sure that I am glad Lary convinced you to share your work on the blog. Something so personal...demands the human experience. You are clearly more than a "networking administrator"; you are all that this can never be.

 
At 12:56 PM , Blogger lgaffney said...

Thank you for reminding me of the importance of being vulnerable. In my Creative Writing class, my students consistently express an interest in reading my writing since I ask them so openly to share their writing with each other and with me. I struggle to break down this boundary, but your poem reminds me of the connections we establish by being transparent and, more importantly, by being human. Thanks for sharing!

 
At 7:26 PM , Blogger Renee Howell said...

Thank you for being very, very brave. I will share your post with Monica because she "gets" being brave. Thank you, for being a teacher and sharing the learning.

 
At 9:29 AM , Blogger Mrs.Henigin said...

I loved your poem and love the idea of teaching your idea to my students! Thank you for sharing!

I am from Steeler Country. Born of 3 Rivers and Sports Stadiums!

 
At 5:10 PM , Blogger techforschool said...

Incredible...

I am amazed and inspired.

 
At 10:34 AM , Blogger James H said...

It is great that you are allowing your students and the world to see this side of you. THanks for sharing.

 
At 5:20 PM , Blogger Ms. Kakos said...

So beautiful...my soul responded a little to yours.

 

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home