In light of the recent horrific tornadoes in the American South, especially Alabama, I was touched to find Langston Hughes’ “Daybreak in Alabama” in my inbox today from my Knopf poem-a-day emails, which I will sorely miss when April ends tomorrow. I have a fair amount of family in the Birmingham area, and luckily, they are all safe and sound.
“Daybreak in Alabama”
When I get to be a composer
I’m gonna write me some music about
Daybreak in Alabama
And I’m gonna put the purtiest songs in it
Rising out of the ground like a swamp mist
And falling out of heaven like soft dew.
I’m gonna put some tall tall trees in it
And the scent of pine needles
And the smell of red clay after rain
And long red necks
And poppy colored faces
And big brown arms
And the field daisy eyes
Of black and white black white black people
And I’m gonna put white hands
And black hands and brown and yellow hands
And red clay earth hands in it
Touching everybody with kind fingers
And touching each other natural as dew
In that dawn of music when I
Get to be a composer
And write about daybreak
Cover of And Still I Rise
With over 50% of the vote, “Still I Rise” triumphed over “Funeral Blues” and “Mid-Term Break” in my first annual March Madness Poetry Tournament!
I have to say, I’m surprised at the results. Sure, I had pegged “Still I Rise” to be a serious contender, but I truly did not expect two such sad poems to be the other entries in the finals. I was surprised that no love poems ended up in the final three as well; is this a testament to my own romantic spirit, or the cynicism of my young students, or my poor choices of love poetry? Definitely an intriguing question, and one I’ll ponder next year when I am beginning my second tournament. Also, I am really proud of the three students who read the finalists at our Morning Meeting, in front of about 350 people, and thrilled that over 100 of those people voted to choose a winner.
In other poetry news, I entered the National Poetry Month Cento Contest. The cento is a form I first encountered two years ago, when I completed the poem-a-day challenge run by Poetic Asides, and it’s a form I really enjoyed. It was a pleasure to return to, and I am pleased with my result, whether it succeeds in the contest or not. Just like with the menu-poems, I’m stretching myself and sending my work out, even if I don’t feel it’s perfect, and that feels really good. Wish me luck!
Image via Wikipedia
One of the best decisions I’ve made since starting my current job is that when a nervous senior asked me if I would replace a departing faculty member as the adviser for our Gay-Straight Alliance, I said yes. It’s been a wonderful and rewarding few years, and it’s been just incredible to see the club develop and become a real voice on our campus.
The busy seasons for GSAs tend to be October and April: October for Ally Week and April for the National Day of Silence, the largest student-led day of action in the country. This year, my amazing student president really put a lot of effort into increasing participation and making the day more significant at our school, and as a result, we have a dedicated group of students who will be remaining silent on Friday, as a way to experience the kind of silencing and isolation many GLBTQ teens feel in schools across the country.
I’ve been running around lining up support and collecting participant names and buying ribbon, and it’s only just now that I have a little mental space to think about what it will be like. Will the students be successful? What will it be like for them? When we gather at the end to break the silence, what will they say? I’m nervous and excited to see and hear how it goes.
If you just shuddered at the sound of those words, then you are not unlike many of my students, who complain at the very hint of a group project. They’re too much work, one student always gets stuck with all the work, there are always students who end up doing nothing, it’s too hard to get everyone organized, etc etc etc.
On the teacher side, they can be hard to plan, hard to assess, and hard to manage: how to make sure hard work gets recognized, to assign the right students to work together, to make the project interesting but challenging, to make the group aspect organically part of the learning experience, not an externally forced element.
My students just finished a group Edgar Allen Poe Project (click for document), so these questions are on my mind, especially as I begin grading them. Do we assign these projects to torture our students, as many of them suspect?
If collaborative skills are part of what we should be working on with our students, then group projects have to continue to be part of our curriculum, right? I’ve added peer evaluations to my toolkit when I do assign them, and I’ve tried to make sure there are plenty of tasks, some that require collaboration but others that can be completed individually. I’ve also tried structuring the project in segments, and allowing group members to choose which they’d prefer to be involved in while requiring that they do work on more than one segment. I also tell my students why I’m assigning it and why I think the group project format is helpful, and also that just like public speaking (another student terror), the more you work in groups, the easier it gets.
Any tips or tricks or helpful horror stories on assigning, developing or surviving group projects?
Since it seems like a time for jubilation and acceptances in the blogosphere, I’m thrilled to be able to make my own “Woohoooooo!!!!!!!!!!!” post.
Not only did I gain acceptance to my first-choice NEH workshop, but I also had one of my menu poems accepted!
I have to say, that in the cruelest month, these two pieces of news are giving me quite a wonderful boost. I’m feeling really good about my poetry month activities with my students, but I’m feeling even better about achieving this personal goal and sending another poem out into the world in such a wonderful and public way.
Alimentum has asked that I record a video of myself reading my poem also, so be prepared for that, and I will let you all know once the full list of menu poems is up on their website.