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Ben Wallace is a creative writing major at the University of Arizona. He's also a teaching artist at Sam Hughes Elementary.
Before class, one of the students calls me over and says, "Mr. Ben, I wrote a poem all by myself this morning."
"Awesome," I say. "What was it about?"
The girl smiles at me with her two front teeth missing, giggles, and says, "The Toothfairy!" I was so proud to hear that. I was able to see in her poems that she saw writing not as schoolwork, but as a way to document and enjoy life.
Jeevan Narney is an MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Arizona, and was a writer-in-residence at Sam Hughes Elementary.
I think the Family Days event was the highlight out of all the field work that I did this semester. I saw the children of Tucson come out of the community to the University of Arizona Poetry Center for one purpose: poetry. The November wind blew, and the morning sun lit the roof of our hair. It was a great day. The air was soon populated with the voices of laughing children, whose ages ranged from infant to high school. The parents smiled like children themselves. They were happy to be here with their children. It's been a neat semester of seeing how the Poetry Center provides poetic opportunities to learn more about poetry to our youth in the Tucson community.
Jeevan Narney is an MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Arizona, and a writer-in-residence at Sam Hughes Elementary.
Nothing gave me greater joy this semester than waking up on Friday mornings, knowing that I was going to be teaching poetry to a fabulous, energetic group of 2nd graders at the Sam Hughes Elementary School. It was so much fun working with Ben as my team-teaching partner. Ms. Dunn, their teacher, was incredibly supportive in helping us out when we needed it. The students' enthusiasm warmed my heart! They were so eager to read their poems out loud in class to their classmates. I will miss the children's smiling faces and reading their adventurous poems! I enjoyed being part of their creative world. I learned so much about teamwork and creating poetry lessons which have inspired my own writing. The children of our community rock!
Sarah Minor is a teaching artist at Corbett Elementary, and is pursuing her MFA in Nonfiction at The University of Arizona.
It seemed like I had just stepped into my classroom for that full first hour, my heart still aflutter, consistently surprised to look out and find 22 pairs of fourth grade eyes on me at all times. We had reached the heart of our first lesson, the crucial moment in which I transitioned from a partner activity to individual writing. If the students felt unprepared or uninspired at this point, I might find myself still the focal point of all those eyes rather than focusing their energy on the empty blue lines below their chins. “Okay class,” I said, “now you get to turn back to your own desks and write your own story about an imaginary city by yourselves!” To my left, David Jurkowitz’s eyes grew wide. He locked his elbows and raised his small fists in to the air and shouted, “THIS IS MY DREAM!!” And promptly fell over in his chair, having been balanced on two chair legs during my announcement. This, I thought, could be a good residency. Throughout our semester together, Ms. Pierson’s 4th grade class impressed me with their grasp of unique voices, their deep, dark tales and creatures, and the sharp honesty of their first nonfiction stories. They really were my dream, too.
Lisa Levine is a teaching artist at Corbett Elementary, and an MFA Candidate in Fiction at The University of Arizona.
Teaching fiction to Jill Carey's second grade class confounds the rules of fiction. In my class' stories, every person has superpowers, pizza is the universal food, and magic is the only ending that counts. The minds of second graders are so able to transition from real to made-up that setting boundaries from one to the other is like building walls over running water - the awareness of real and made-up is fixed in their minds, but their beliefs are still entrenched in a child's world, where the unimaginable is not only imaginable, it's still kind of true. My most memorable instance of realizing that second grade is a time of unmatched creative transformation was when one student read about his imaginary character, who bore a strong resemblance to a certain ubiquitous character of wizard and literary fame - the class called him out on using someone else's character. "He's Harry Potter," one girl said, and this boy blushed and hid a little behind his story as he left the front of the room. "Yes," he said. "But he's mine too."
Hilary Gan is a teaching artist at Hollinger Elementary, an Education Intern at the Poetry Center, and an MFA candidate in Fiction at The University of Arizona.
I wrote with 17 first and second-graders on Friday afternoons. It was consistently the best part of my week. Not only were the kids able to relax and take a break from normal school work; I was, too. My favorite lesson caught me by surprise--I had learned that this class had never read any of Shel Silverstein, so I picked up my favorite Silverstein poem, "Whatif," which talks about the whatifs which crawl inside your ears at night and whisper things that could go wrong the next day. I had my students read it to me, and then draw pictures of what they thought a whatif looked like; finally, I had them write poems of Ihopes, which crawl into your ears and tell you about possibilities. When Katie came up to read her poem at the end of the class, my eyes went a little leaky. Her poem was so full of the juxtaposition of small, childhood things, and the big hopes that everybody has, even adults, and she said it all so baldly and without hedging that I was very touched.
Sarah Minor is an MFA candidate in non-fiction at the University of Arizona, and writer-in-residence at Corbett Elementary.
On a warm Saturday morning this September I headed to the Poetry Center to lead my first Family Day activity. The event fell during the Poetry Center's Speak Peace exhibit and we had planned peace themed activities combining visual art and writing for the families to participate in. Having only worked with high school and college-aged students before I was, of course, terrified of young children. Not young children exactly, but the idea of inspiring young children to sit down and write, to come up with a message about peace--a topic adults have a hard time discussing--all while overcoming the limits of spelling and handwriting. What if the activity was too simple? What if they grew bored quickly or couldn't sit still? And how old were third graders again?
Lisa Levine is an MFA candidate in fiction at the University of Arizona, and writer-in-residence at Sam Hughes Elementary School.
In a Difference and Equality brown bag this fall, two writers brought up the issue of silence. One of the writers described an entire undergraduate class in which the students analyzed a novel (whose title I have forgotten, I'm sorry to admit) known for being, among other things, about the themes of race and identity. The students, she said, got through a full hour of discussion in which no one ever mentioned the subject. In an era where the classroom is a relatively safe place to study the murky waters of race and identity, why aren't students willing to drink?
Hilary Gan is an MFA candidate in fiction at the University of Arizona, and writer-in-residence at Hollinger Elementary.
Before I started my MFA in creative writing at the University of Arizona, I worked for two years in science outreach through the Arizona Science Center. I traveled around the state, visiting schools, clubs, and libraries with our portable science kits and demonstrations, trying to spark the public's interest in science and its many applications. I learned a number of crucial lessons, including not to chew gum when handling liquid nitrogen, but one of the more frustrating ones was how difficult it is to change the public perception of science as a field which requires a great deal of education to understand. The students were a little more pliable when it came to convincing them that they were already scientists; it was the adults that were brick walls. I can't tell you how many times an instructor or somebody's mom would come up to me after a program and say, "That was so much fun; I wish I could do more of that with my kids, but I'm so bad at science." If I tried to point out that they had just easily understood the basics of electron motion through copper wire or the basic functions of the digestive system, they demurred and shut down. "I just don't get science," is the common refrain of most teachers with no formal training, and it is, quite simply, not true. You do get it--you just don't know it yet.
If you enjoyed the activities at our Young at Art Festival, or if you weren't able to make it, below are the directions to one of the poem-making activities led by UA student and teaching artist Jillian Andrews. Enjoy!