def poetry logoBe the change you want in the world. Such a clichéd term, but yet so true. I spent the first few years of my teaching career trying to figure myself out. To a certain extent I think I still haven’t, though I’m becoming comfortable in my own skin.

How does this pertain to the world of technology? Simple. You can’t do well what you don’t feel comfortable doing. Especially if you are a person who grew to appreciate technology and then arrived in a classroom where you couldn’t figure out how to use it.

I spent my first year of teaching engulfed in the procedures of others, who, though older and wiser, were not technology innovators. During this time I experienced everything I wanted to be – and everything I didn’t. By the end of the first year, like many other novices, I didn’t feel like returning. I wanted to raise the white flag of defeat. I felt lost and jaded by the system. I spent several weeks sorting through all those feelings and came out of those weeks with a sense of determination and extreme motivation.

The summer became a time of rejuvenation and reflection. If I wanted to “survive,” I needed to be about that change in the world I wanted to see. I made the choice to be true to myself and in being true to myself I needed to include technology. Yet, after 11 weeks of thinking and some hair loss…I had nothing.

Just when you least expect it

Genius is a funny thing. It comes when you least expect it – when you totally don’t need another distraction. For me it came the second semester, right after our standardized testing. I was mentally exhausted from the same old same old of student test prep.

The next unit we were about to begin was poetry. As a person who loves literature, I’m more than happy to sit, listen and interpret the works of Shakespeare, Wordsworth, and Shelley. But try asking the same thing of a general education student. I assure you the response wouldn’t be anything you’d like to hear. As I sat in our teaming session, I thought about the boredom that was sure to come if I taught this next unit in the traditional way. And then it came to me: My students needed to “see” the poetry.

Poetry is something you have to feel come alive, not just read on pages. I thought back to my own days as a teenager and remembered the HBO program Def Jam Poetry, which showed how powerful poetry can be when it’s spoken aloud. And it also came to me that my students needed real world connections to the rising literary greats of today as well as an understanding of the giants of the past.

I went to YouTube – a site that I wasn’t comfortable with at the time but found to be a fascinating and awesome tool. I saved several clips of artists performing and tied those clips to daily themed poetry pieces. I presented the idea and concept to my English team members – fearing rejection but looking forward to the idea of being a rogue teacher if necessary. Somewhat to my surprise, the idea was accepted and the change in our curriculum plan was made. I took my first step toward becoming the change that I wanted to see by changing my own teaching and by spreading that change to others, which made it all the better.

I know it was a small change, but it’s given me some courage to search for more ways to make learning connect to lives of the students I’ve been asked to teach.

I’m eager to find out what’s next.

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Jennifer M. Jones

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