JUST THINKIN: WHEN A TEN YEAR OLD REVISES YOUR RECENT AND MAYBE BRILLIANT THINKING
Friday. Poetry Friday. The fifth grade teachers want me to continue thinking with the kids about the purposes for poetry. They want me to talk about poems that tell a story or poems that teach a life lesson. I plan to use BASEBALL, SNAKES, AND SUMMER SQUASH, Don Graves' oldie but goodie. I can't find my copy so I head to our school library. I don't find that book, but I find BIRMINGHAM, 1963, Carole Boston Weatherford's beautiful photo essay/poem about the Birmingham church bombing.
The kids are Friday afternoon restless when I walk in, and a little apathetic as I remind them of the model we started discussing the week before, but quickly settle into the book. They become quieter and quieter as I read. When I am done, they have lots of questions. That really happened? Did they catch the guys who did it? Why would someone do that? Why would they do that in a church? Could that happen now? The conversation is rich and thoughtful and goes much longer than I had intended. I think of Louise Rosenblatt's notion that people need to respond to a text at the emotional/feeling/message level before they can critique the author's craft, and let them go.
When the conversation wanes, I return to the topic of poet's purpose. I ask the fifth graders where they think this poem fits into the model. Many of the children think the poem tells a story and/or teaches a life lesson but Gregory has a different idea. He points to an empty box on the chart I have created. "I think you need a new category, Ms. W. I think you need to put "Reflecting on a historical event" here in this box." I am surprised, a little, I think, that this ten-year-old is ready to revise my most recent maybe brilliant thinking. A ten-year-old is making suggestions to the model of a fifty-year-old, veteran educator. I have a Ph.D., for pete's sake! As I think about it, though, I am more than a little pleased. If we truly are a community learners, and I really do want us to be, then every member of the community has the right to contribute and build and help other members revise their thinking.
Consider it done, Gregory. Consider it done.