Powerful Schools loves to hear from our former students with updates about where they are now. Recently, Vicky Edmonds, a long time poetry instructor with Powerful Schools, shared her experience of running into one of her former students from John Muir Elementary:
“One night I went to see this year’s YouthSpeaks Poetry Slam Preliminary performances. I’ve been going to these Slams since last April, because the kids and their poems are always so moving. At this particular event, I noticed a young woman there giving her time as the emcee of the event. She was beautiful, brilliant, strong, funny, charming, early 20′s, and held the entire evening together, making the kids and the audience alike feel included in every part of the 3-1/2 hour evening. As I listened to her I found out that she had helped start the Seattle chapter of YouthSpeaks, was herself a poet who performed when she was in the same age group, and was a supporter of all the upcoming youth poets as they find their way and their voice. All in all, she was amazing.
I saw her again at another Poetry Slam months later, and this time she was filming the performance. I was going to find my seat and didn’t want to walk in front of the video camera, so I walked behind, and there she was. She reached out her hand and stopped me, and said, “Excuse me, but did you ever teach poetry classes at John Muir Elementary School?”
I told her that yes, I have, and that I was teaching there now.
“No, I mean a long time ago,” she said.
I answered, “Yes, I’ve been lucky enough to write with kids there on and off for probably about 10 or 12 years.”
That’s when she smiled said, “You came to my class when I was there and wrote poems with us, and you’re the reason I became a poet.”
Well, I actually had to gulp a few times to keep from crying. It had been a challenging day and week, and suddenly everything in the universe was okay, and even beautiful.
We smiled and talked for a few minutes, I found out that it was about 11 years ago, when she was in 5th grade at John Muir Elementary that I did a Powerful Schools Poetry Residency in her class. She told me she still had a poem she wrote in one of the classes and had recently shared it at an event as one of her first poems. When she described it I recognized it as one of the prompts I gave during the “Who Am I” Repetition lesson, after an exercise in similes and imagery.
I needed to take my seat for the show, but when it was over I went to her again. The woman’s name was Rose McAleese. Rose had become a prominent figure in the local spoken word platform and was even part of the Women of the World Poetry Slam. I told her that I would be working a poetry residency at John Muir Elementary for another couple of weeks, and asked her if she would consider coming to the school and reading her piece to the class.
Rose did come in with me to a class a couple of weeks later. She didn’t bring the poem she wrote when she was younger, but she spoke with the kids and gave them writing ideas as well.
As Rose and I were walking up the stairs to present to the 5th graders, she pointed out her second grade classroom. At that moment I remembered her.
I said, “Wait a minute – you sat on the left side of the room facing inward, had bobbed brown hair, sweet little round framed glasses, and you wrote a poem about your feelings being in a locked box at the bottom of the ocean, right?”
She nodded and said, “Yes!”
I realized I had first met her in that classroom when she was eight years old, not 11. She made an impact on me then just as she had now.
I wanted to share this story because without Powerful Schools, our talented teachers at John Muir and all the others who support and make possible the work we all do I would never have gotten to meet this young woman. The words are small but my heart is full with them. I feel so grateful that poetry can be this thread that connects us through our truths through so many years.”