Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Poetry Month: Changing and Growing!

What is The Willows?
The teachers and staff helping the children grow.
What is The Willows?
A place where each face can be known.
What is The Willows?

A place where we share to be kind.
What is The Willows?
A place to educate the mind.
What is The Willows?
Ashlee Cline, '00, The 1997 Willows Poetry Anthology

The success of the first Poetry Month/Poetry Night ensured that it would become a Willows' tradition.

"Everyone had such a good time that first year," explains Lisa.  "We realized what we could do with so much creative freedom, and we wanted to build on it."

The Willows' Poetry Month evolved over the next few years as teachers added to and improved on the event.  Classes started to write and perform group poems connected to their thematic units.

On Poetry Nights, teachers and parents took the "coffeehouse" redecorating challenge to new heights transforming classrooms into welcoming performance spaces. Whether elegant, cozy, mysterious or wacky, all were in the spirit of adventure and creativity.

Teacher Brian Tousey remembers one of his favorite class presentations from an early Poetry Night, "My seventh grade class all dressed in matching white jumpsuits and goggles.  They all jogged in from the back of the multipurpose room in unison to the strains of Mr. Roboto by Styx," he recalls.  "We had a smoke machine going, and the kids performed a robotics-themed poem they had written.  It brought down the house."

One element of Poetry Month The Willows held on to, notes Lisa Rosenstein, is the tradition of bringing in outside poets to broaden the students' perspective on poetry.  Markhum Who was followed by Jack Grapes for three years, and in recent years Deb Studebaker has served as The Willows' poet-in-residence.

"One of my fondest memories of the Willows involves Jack Grapes, who came and taught my fourth grade class how to write good poetry," recalls Jeremy Fassler, '04.  "Most of what I know about poetry I learned from him.  He was a great teacher, and he got all of us in the class to write very heartfelt, emotional stuff."

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