Twelve hands shot up when I asked if anyone wanted to share poetry today. Then, while others in the class kept working on their writing, the poets who were ready to share met on the front carpet. Stunning work. Better than anything I cold write. Ten-year-olds.
“N” wrote this:
You’ll never know that I’m a stranger in my mind,
that I always have a great big brave dog running through me,
and that my actual love is always just.
That from a girl who knew a hundred words in English last year.
“D” shared this, a memory from his life:
I remember when I first went kayaking with my friends. They were experienced kayakers, but not me. Their boats got so far ahead of me, they looked like colorful dots in the distance. I was scared, lost, and tired, but I knew I had to keep paddling. I did, I paddled.
“G,” a boy who barely did one ounce of math homework for me last year, wrote this. Apparently, he has found his calling.
My secrets live deep inside my heart,
and they are locked up.
I will whisper them to you
if you want to hear them.
Then “I” asked me to read his poem. He prefaced my reading by telling everyone “it was deep.”
My name is XXXXXXXX.
I love to ride my bike down the road with my friend.
and play in the pool in the summer.
My shadow self is sadder and more upset than my real self,
he punches his pillows and cries
while others play and laugh.
You don’t know that I to used to always be shy and dark.
You also do not know that I went with my dad
to the gun range and got to shoot a bb gun.
You will never know what I love or who I love.
You never know what happens in family.
My secrets stay close to my heart,
the secrets I have you never know until I trust you
You can find me in at the bottom of the earth,
each burn on your skin,
with every pain in your body.
The whole squad of fourth graders was silent, respectful, looking at their classmate with love. I said, “We never know what is going on in the cave of someone’s heart, that’s why we must always try to be kind.” Then the poet told his classmates that someone from school hurt him last year, said something to him that he will never forget. His eyes welled. His classmates listened. Then one of his classmates – a girl – stood and gave him a hug. Then another. And a third. Not half hugs. Not one arm slung around his shoulder. Heart to heart hugs, arms completely circling this boy, holding on tight.
This is a moment that changed all of us. The poet. His friends. Me. His classroom teacher who was sitting at her desk, listening in with tears falling down her face.
This moment was a tribute to our school, all of his former teachers, his current teacher, the children who surround him, and the sweet kiss of poetry. Ours is a school where this happens. Ours is a school that leads with the heart.