Today I had the wonderful privilege of spending a few hours with a large group of 4th and 5th grade students at a Burlington City intermediate school. They were attentive, respectful, energetic, outgoing. They surprised me with their talent, their wisdom, their capable expressions. It was truly an amazing morning.
I started by reading one of my own poems, “In the Garden, the Stormtroopers,” as I assumed that kids around my own son’s age would connect to a Star Wars-inspired poem. Turns out, they were much more amused by the story of how I got the idea (which was directly inspired by this photograph) than by the poem itself, which was amusing to me. Then we read Aracelis Girmay’s “For Estefani Lora,” a lovely poem that tells a story and plays with language at the same time. They asked me, “How many times is she going to use the word love?!” And then, we took a Naomi Shihab Nye poem, “Boy and Egg,” and dissected it line by line on the white board. They were responsive and engaged, and though I saw a couple sleepily-nodding heads, I felt listened to.
After dissecting the poems, we did a writing exercise in which I had them write a poem telling a story about the hottest day of the year. The skill and talent on display in that class were truly remarkable: one girl wrote, as my friend Anna might call it, a “tiara of limericks” – three quick limericks put together into a beautiful poem about playing in the sprinklers with a friend. Another boy dropped some straight-up freestyle rhymes on me. And still another turned the prompt into a daydream of the African plains in an intuitive interpretation that had me wondering if he’d snuck in to any Peter Murphy workshops.
Being with the students today, listening to them, reading their poems, made me realize that I really cannot stay in Human Resources. There is not enough humanity in it. And though I have been back to school with a furor since May, with a second semester already starting in August, I have a renewed dedication and reason. I must finish. I must get out. I must get back in the classroom.
Those kids are beautiful.