By Page May
As part of the All About Me unit, each of our middle school classes completed “I am” poem in our unit exploring power. Too often, when we learn about power and race or power and gender, it leads to us feeling disempowered. This project intended to help students move past those feelings, and toward celebrating the identities that the world too often tells us are unworthy.
I gave students three differentiated template options to self-select from: mild, medium, and spicy. The templates provided a structure for the students to write their poetry. The mild version was pretty basic, a very routine “I am from” exercise that many of the students had done before with Ms Jones, their previous english teacher. The medium template was harder, demanding deeper reflection & giving less specific instructions for the structure. The spicy template wasn’t really a template so much as a prompt example called “What it’s like to be a black girl (for those of you who aren’t).
The content of the poems were up to the students. Our past several weeks’ conversations about power and oppression had created a culture of self-reflection and honesty that came through in the students’ poetry. As students wrote, I walked around the room offering support but not pushing any specific story. In the end, they chose to write about the parts of themselves that they often don’t feel allowed to share as well as the parts of themselves they are learning are powerful, though repressed.