Lessons in Poetry and Life

Friday, February 28th, 2014

Throughout my service experience, I have learned a variety of different things. First, I know that there is a little Shakespeare in everyone, no matter how young or old. Second, children can teach important lessons to adults just as much as adults to children. Third, imaginations are gifts every child receives, but most of the time, puts aside even at early ages. Fourth, I realize that even second graders like video games. Finally, even though you don’t mean you, you always, always get attached to your students.

My most memorable experience with the kids at Westbrook was during one of my primary visits. We assigned the kids a poem where each line began with the words “I wish,” and they would continue. I enjoyed just sitting back, watching their imaginations and personalities come out in their words. One little boy was writing ferociously, and kept asking me how to spell this or that word. Some words even surprised me; I didn’t know children of that age (second graders) had such a large lexicon! Anyway, this young boy’s quick writing had me very intrigued, so I asked about his poem. His older brother was away in the Army, and he doesn’t get to see him very often. Some kids pick on him, and all he wishes was that his brother could be with him to help him against the other kids.

He then proceeded to tell me about a war game he owned for the Xbox 360, and started listing his favorite characters. It was very interesting to hear what he understood about a game that I myself have played and know the background to. It was a war game – a graphic one at that – and I started to worry for him. As he played this war game, did he ever worry for his brother? Or did that connection never cross his mind? I didn’t want to hint at the similarities and focus on his brother due to the fact that when my older sister left to live with her dad, any mention of her would make me teary-eyed and depressed. I now pray every night for the safety of his brother.

Watching the little boy write his poem about his brother was very eye-opening. The way children today use language is quite different than I remember using it in second grade. I remember crushes and recess and playing outside, with nature and love being the main focuses of my poems. While listening to the class read their poems, I heard gossip about other children, pain and hardship in their lives from a divorce, unadulterated love for their siblings, and the effect the world and its circumstances has on each of them. Having this experience with this young boy has made me realize how the horrors of war and life itself do not get passed the children. Kids nowadays may even be more in-tuned with the brutality of war than I am, due to the games that their parents allow them to play. That scares me.

As a teacher of sorts, I am not exactly sure on how I personally affected the children. All I know is from what they told me during our sessions. On the very last day of service, the children made us all cards – a very wonderful surprise indeed. Due to the fact that many of my peers never volunteered to be group leader – and to the fact that even when chosen, they never felt like completely going through with their responsibility – I was often in front of the children teaching them what to do, and walking around the room giving everyone fun and quirky ideas that sparked their interest. Thanks to this, the kids were able to remember my name, and when it came time for cards, many of them had my name already written in them. :’) This small gesture of love and innocence will stay with me for the rest of my life. In their cards, they told me of how much they loved writing poetry with me, and how my ideas were the best. There were cards begging us to stay and cards with the best admiration poems I’ve ever read. As my peers and I were exiting the classroom, many of the kids came up and hugged me. Walking out of their school, hands filled with words of love and kindness, I felt a sudden drop in my stomach; the realization that I would probably never see any of them again finally sunk in. All I can do is hope and pray that I made some sort of difference in their lives.