June 3, 2010

Who I Am

It's no secret that most people don't look back on their middle school years very fondly. And it's no wonder when you consider how much things start to change during this time. Not only are bodies going through physical and hormonal changes, but this is the time when we all start figuring out who we are and the place we have in the world. Working in the middle school, I love being a witness to how my students navigate this time in their lives.
And then, I ask them to do something that would be difficult for most adults to accomplish. I ask them to describe themselves in an "I Am" poem through metaphor. We spend an entire week brainstorming, writing, revising and editing this piece, and then my students create a three dimensional visual to represent their poems. The results, I'm certain you will agree, are both thoughtful and fabulous, showcasing the individuality of each student!
Perfectly representing the changes that occur in during this phase of life, this student represented himself through an "Ever-Changing Chameleon":
This year, there was quite a food theme in my classroom. This student talked about each layer of the "All American Burger" and how it represented the multiple layers of her personality:

We know kids love sweets, but I was amazed at the level these girls were able to take their metaphors of M&Ms and Sour Patch Kids, demonstrating not only themselves but their relationships with others:


Here's a "Dolce and Gabbana Stiletto" waiting to be worn rather than just admired on a shelf:

Here's a "Radiant Yet Fading" sunflower that's desperately hoping her petals can stay in bloom despite the harsh seasons to come:

The student that created this "Changing River" is the one who hated everything we did this year! He was my biggest source of frustration not because his apathy and lack of effort was sometimes contagious in the classroom but also because I knew he was capable of better. When we'd journal in class, he was notorious for writing one or two sentences and then responding with, "I don't know what else to say," when prompted for more. Admittedly, I came to expect very little from this student, which made this project all the more impressive. Not only was his poem very thoughtful and reflective, but his visual stood out. Even his classmates were surprised to see how he completely surpassed our expectations in this unit.
I'm continually amazed by how insightful my students can be and how they stretch their minds to create these beautiful metaphors to share who they are. One of my favorite parts is seeing how this project unites the class because they are forced to be vulnerable in sharing their truths; I am proud of the way they encourage and praise each other for this work. I hope, hope, hope I have the opportunity to teach poetry again in my next position because I would love, love, love to continue to use this meaningful lesson.

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