Teaching Poetics:

Method for Reflection

The Significance of Perspective

Teachers talk about teaching. Alot. In fact, one tell-tale sign of a career teacher can be found in her intellectual curiosity about and interest in debating and grappling with a wide variety of topics related to teaching and learning. Hence, teachers' perspective about about what makes teaching effective and personally fulfilling is important. When pre-service and novice teachers are inducted into the profession, their perspective is different, yet equally significant and worth paying attention to.

Recently, I attempted to capture McNeese State University pre-service teachers' perspectives about teaching as they continued their preparation mid-way through the first semester of a year-long residency. I asked them to identify their "highs" and "lows," first from their own perspective, then from their cooperating teachers' perspective, and lastly from the perspective of the students they taught. The results of this reflection activity culminated in a co-constructed piece of poetry. Read on to find out more on the power of perspective. But first....

Watch the short video below and listen carefully about how our perspectives are shaped by the spaces we inhabit.

Event Horizon: How Space Changes Your Perspective On Life

What are the "highs" and "lows" of your teaching?

Meaning-Making Through Metaphor

Pre-service teachers were then given a choice of several images to use metaphorically to represent their teaching. Each student wrote for about 5 minutes, generating a synthesis of ideas about their teaching, and reflecting on what it means to be a teacher. Below are samples of images they used along with lines they created for use in their co-constructed poem.

Co-Constructing Poetry

Finally, pre-service teachers created two lines of poetry and placed them collectively on a long table and together decided how to arrange each line for maximum impact and fullest meaning. Without prompting, students read and reread their emerging poem, arranged and rearranged as needed until they were satisfied with their collective work. The images below show you a snippet of that process and the final poem.
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The Ides of March is often celebrated to remind us about the power of loyalty. So in that spirit, let us be loyal to each other and the teaching profession. Being loyal to the work of teaching excellence demands a recognition of the significance of multiple perspectives presented as we intersect with each other. Let us continue to coalesce, rally and support each other as we teach in evermore poetic ways.

Many of us may not see ourselves as poets or poetic. That was true for my students. Some said, "If you would've told me that I had to write poetry at the beginning I couldn't have done it." Nevertheless, each student was able to experience poetic reflection, something I like to think is similar to what Wendell Berry calls us to in his poem, "How To Be A Poet." Listen to and enjoy his reading below.

On Being

"How To Be A Poet" by Wendell Berry by On Being

Mimi Wallace, Ph.D.

McNeese State University

Burton College of Education

Department of Education Professions

Farrar Hall, 217

Box 91815

Lake Charles, LA 70609