I'm back in the classroom after a six-week stint of primarily mentoring a student teacher, and it feels great. Kids are wonderful.
Today, we kicked off our poetry unit by discussing Bob Hicok's "In the Loop," a haunting piece about the Virginia Tech shootings. The first time discussing a poem in my class is important to me because I want to emphasize that we talk about poems because it's a good thing to do: it helps us understand ourselves and each other better. We don't just do it because we're trying to understand a rhyme scheme. Approaching poetry this way makes it less intimidating, too. In fact, I introduced the poem by saying that it was one I read this summer and couldn't stop thinking about. I brought it to class because I wanted to see what they thought and see if they could help me answer some of my questions.
(If you haven't read the linked poem, go do it now. It's worth a minute of your time, and you need it to participate in the next section.)
The simile that makes everyone think is the scarf on the train. I got my wish that I would have more clarity after discussing this with my students because they had so many great ideas.
"Maybe the scarf is the shooter, and it's like, how no one really sees a scarf left behind even though the train is going. Like life is moving all around him and no one sees him."
"I think the train is like how life just has to keep moving forward, like a train going to its stops. But when you leave a scarf on a train, you're really sad at first, but then you just get over it. Like most people in the country were really sad at first about the shootings, but then they just got over it and moved on."
After our discussion, we walked to the library to renew books. Two (not particularly studious) boys in one of my classes whispered all the way down the hall about lines they were thinking about in the poem, lines they thought they had "figured out." To see them so excited, thinking so hard about words: that is why I teach. Kids make poetry fresh.