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One of the benefits of wearing a hat of many colors is the ability to blend many roles.  This happened recently when Ali needed to complete a writing assignment.  The assignment required her to write four poems, all different formats, but linked with a theme.  She decided upon a theme, the seasons, but was struggling with choosing the different formats.

When it comes to writing assignments, Ali naturally comes to me for help as I’ve taught Language Arts at the middle school level for 18 years and am proud to be a part of the National Writing Project.  Sometimes I’m sure she would rather receive someone else’s help because I conscientiously try to provide just enough support for Ali (and my actual students) so they are on the verge of frustration but still can succeed.

When Ali came to me, I suggested she search the Web for various formats.  She did and found a few formats to use for her first three poems but was stuck when it came to the last poem.  I asked to see the list of formats she was choosing from and happened to find one which I hadn’t thought of for quite a few years—a pantoum.

My first introduction to a pantoum was during my initiation into the NWP through the Upper Peninsula Writing Project’s Summer Institute.  Similar to what happens to some students at varying points of their K-12 education, I learned to not enjoy poetry.  I specifically remember the poem, Robert Frost’s Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening, when my interpretation was considered wrong by the teacher.  Now let me tell you, my teachers were wonderful, but my adolescent brain used this event to prove that adults were out to get us (meaning any teenager) in any way possible.  To fight against the adults in my life, I chose to close myself to any poetry from that point forward.  Silly me!

Then came the summer of 1999 and the UPWP.  I not only listened to poetry; I wrote some.  One of the poems I wrote was a pantoum.  This poem helped me open the door I kept shut for too many years, so I was excited to be reminded of it when I saw Ali’s list.    I suggested she try it.  At first it was confusing to her, but in the end not only did she enjoy her poem, but so did her Language Arts teacher.  It is during moments like this that I am happy to have a hat of many colors; my love for teaching writing and being a mom melded into one and it felt fantastic.

(Formatting is not allowing me to have 4 stanzas with 4 lines each.)

Summer (pantoum)  by Ali

Students are ready for the bell to ring

Bolting out of the school’s doors

Feeling like queens and kings

While kids are running for Superior’s shores.

Bolting out of the school’s doors

Poor teachers still have to stay

While kids are running for Superior’s shores

Teachers remain for many, many more days.

Poor teachers still have to stay

Meetings, cleaning and reflecting

Teachers remain for many, many more days

And then it’s time for their leaving.

Meetings, cleaning and reflecting

But also planning for the next year

And then it’s time for their leaving

Yet here comes another school year, oh dear.

Planning for the next school year

Feeling like queens and kings

Here comes another school year

Students are ready for the bell to ring.