Last week, I saw a poem by Joshua T. Dickerson posted on Twitter.
I don’t know anything about this poem. I don’t know anything about this poet.
No bargaining, no collateral, no quarters, no shaming. I just give the kid the damn pencil.
I didn’t have any Great Revelation. I just remembered: It’s not my job to teach my students how to keep pencils, it’s my job to teach them how to read and write. They need a pencil for that.
I knew they’d connect with this poem.
As we move into practicing informative writing, I used this poem as a mentor text today on how we can “show and tell” in our writing.
I said that I thought the teacher was a total jerk, and some students agreed, using evidence from the poem to back up their claims.
Some students, despite providing evidence from the poem that this narrator had a rough life, said that the kid should have had a damn pencil for class, and that his life was no excuse. (We’ve heard that before, right?)
(Some students needed pencils, and I gave them a damn pencil.)
Afterwards, they spent 5-6 minutes illustrating their thoughts on computer paper. They knew I’d be showing these to other teachers, but I promised that they’d stay anonymous, even as they were handing them to me (nameless, upside-down) on their way out the door.
As you’d expect, many were heartbreaking.
We won’t know unless we ask.