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Yesterday was the first of 10 sessions teaching poetry to a group of incarcerated boys. Since I have two classes this year they will be class 1 and class 2 (unique, I know.)

Just getting to class yesterday was an event as we are having huge rain storms here in northern California, accompanied by thunder and lighting and hail. I walked into the room and was greeted by cheers (they really like a break in their routine) and a couple of kids shouted out, "She has Sketchers!" Who would have thought that finally, after all these years, I'm wearing something (shoes) the cool kids want to wear. :)

This class is different from the group I had last year as they have a bit more freedom. You could the room was more relaxed (though we still have a guard in the room.)

I told them a little bit about myself and they were surprised to hear I was 51 years old. They guessed around 31. Good for my ego. We talked about what a rock was in the non-traditional sense. They got it right away and started rattling things off. Then I read them a few poems from my book, Hugging the Rock. This is a very smart group, articulate, and they jumped into conversation right away.

We did an acrostic poem about their name to help me get to know them better. They went right to dictionaries when they needed a word and had no trouble coming up to the front of the class to read their poem out loud. (Except for one kid.) This is going to be a lively group. I can already see a few distinct personalities and that is part of the fun of this type of work.

We brainstormed a list of positive words and I asked them each to pick a word for the day. I told them we'd do this every day that I come in. Next week I will have mini books for them to put their positive words into and keep.

This session is only an hour which I think is better than the 90 minutes I tried before. It means more sessions but I think I can keep their attention better. This group is going to keep me on my toes.

I had them vote on what they wanted to use for art, markers or colored pencils, and again this group picked pencils. I don't know why it surprised me but it did. It's good though since colored pencils don't dry out and I already have a bunch of them.

I'm picking a positive word for each day that I visit them too. For the first visit my word is: POTENTIAL.

These kids are filled with it. I just want to point them in the right direction so they can see it too.
There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.


( 12 comments — Leave comment )
(Deleted comment)
January 25th, 2010 05:22 am (UTC)
Thanks, Jenn! I forgot to post Friday's on Friday. Oops!
January 22nd, 2010 03:13 am (UTC)
I'm glad it seems to be going so well!

I would definitely choose colored pencils. Much easier to color smoothly and do detail. :-) I would have chosen differently in elementary school, but by junior high and high school, I was colored pencil all the way.
January 25th, 2010 05:22 am (UTC)
Thanks! Here's hoping I'm not setting myself up for a fall. See, I'm such a newbie to art stuff that it never occurred to me about the differences between the tools.
January 22nd, 2010 03:21 pm (UTC)
Very cool project! I like that idea of starting with a great word. I am loving your journal posts too.
January 25th, 2010 05:23 am (UTC)
Thanks! I hope I can come up with enough poetry exercises and wish I felt more confident but fingers crossed, I'll power on.
January 22nd, 2010 06:44 pm (UTC)
My word for the day? IMPRESSED.
Good for you!
January 22nd, 2010 08:46 pm (UTC)
Mine, too! Thank you for letting us share some of these moments, and for talking about what's worked well and what hasn't.

POTENTIAL -- what a wonderful way to start!
January 25th, 2010 05:23 am (UTC)
Thanks! Here's hoping I can keep it up.
January 22nd, 2010 06:45 pm (UTC)
It's so neat that you do this, Susan. And that you share it with us. Glad that your work with this group is going so well already.
January 25th, 2010 05:24 am (UTC)
Thanks, Jen. It's amazing that this group is so much more willing to get into the writing. I'm at a different facility and I can see how that makes a big difference.
January 22nd, 2010 07:35 pm (UTC)
random commenter
I am glad to hear that the class went well. You are so good for being there for those boys who probably don't get much of a chance to express themselves.
January 25th, 2010 05:24 am (UTC)
Re: random commenter
Thank you. I hope I can help them express more in the coming visits.
( 12 comments — Leave comment )

Who am I?I was born on the Cancer/Leo cusp and share a birthday with Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams. The similarities don't stop there as I can go from depressed to ecstatic without ever passing go. I feel scared most of the time though my friends call me brave and I find it easier to believe in my friends than to believe in my own abilities to make what I want out of my life.

Who am I? A wife, a mother, a daughter, and even, gulp, a grandmother.

Who am I? A writer who never gets tired of playing with words, even when the words are hard to find. A writer of books for children and articles for grown-ups and many things in-between.

Who am I? A motivational speaker, writing instructor, workshop leader and full-time follower of dreams.

Who am I? Read and find out.

Susan Taylor Brown

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