[personal profile] matthewdaly
I wrote a poem today and recited it in front of my classmates. Sorry, let me say that again. *I* wrote a POEM today and RECITED in IN FRONT OF MY CLASSMATES. A sonnet, no less.  It was an amusing thing that lead me to it. For the "final exam" of my literacy skills class, we were asked to reflect on everything that we had learned in the class and to synthesize it in any form we wanted ... except prose. We could make a poster or a diorama or a folk dance or a board game, anything at all except the one thing that I'm good at.

Thing is, this class was AMAZING. It's called "Teaching Language Skills in Middle and High School Content Areas I". Phew. Point is, reading comprehension isn't just the job of the English teacher. Who's going to teach you how to read a geometry proof or write a chemistry lab? But we should all be using the same vocabulary so when I ask a student "What connections are you drawing from the text?" the student can process this new sort of comprehension in the context of every other sort of comprehension they've done in school up to this point. So many other things -- engaging students in high level questions, effective small group learning, the process of inquiry, authentic assessment strategies, the role of technology in the classroom, holy cow. And I had to make a single artifact that captured such a complete transformation of my educational philosophy for about 10% of my class grade without access to my strengths.

So, given that another thing that I've learned in this course is that written language is the conscious product of thought, I wrote around five pages of crankypants rant impassioned analysis on how much I learned in this course and how one of those things is just how unjust this assignment was. I had started to form a risk-benefit analysis of turning that in when --

Well, maybe you linguistic people could tell me what happened, because it was new to me. I was reading the text aloud to myself and starting to sharpen it up, and I was thinking "Huh, that sentence has a very regular meter. Huh, those two sentences rhyme," and about twenty minutes later I had turned a page of ranty prose into a sonnet. It was a very weirdly powerful experience.  Perhaps the muse is not a mythical creature after all.

Reflection is an inauthentic task
Mere two dimensions capturing a space
Summing up is far too much to ask
A photo’s no replacement for a face
The walls cannot contain the things here earned
Nor closets hide my crafts ‘neath layers of dust
My room will overflow with all I’ve learned
To serve my students, praxis is a must
I’ll comprehend the things I ought to do
And teach my students skills to do the same
The value of my tutelage is true
Math in the world, not just a blackboard game
My purpose found, the strategies to aid
To serve me as I quest to make the grade

I was well outside my comfort zone in class when I found that we'd actually be presenting our projects to the entire class, but a fellow grad student with an English concentration read it over and told me that she thought it was really good and I was among friends.  It earned me a round of applause and my teacher was flattered to be the inspiration for, by my count, the fourth authentic poem I've ever written.  But it's a strange thing that so many things will paralyze me into inaction when the truth is that I am fearless in the moment.  I really must find the way to learn from this.
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Matthew Daly

December 2012

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