Saturday, November 22, 2014

Highlight of #NCTE14 Thus Far, Supporting My Colleagues @FairfieldU and the Newtown Poetry Project. A Presentation That Matters

Yesterday morning, I had the honor of being a respondent to the Newtown Poetry Project and the work of my colleagues, Dr. Elizabeth Boquet and poet Carol Ann Davis. In response of December 14th and the Sandy Hook tragedy, a call was made by a classroom teacher to bring poetry into the schools. My friends met that call and CWP-Fairfield was lucky enough to help provide resources to publish the work of 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade youth.

It was an early a.m. session that was very well-intended and the conversation hosted by faculty at Fairfield University was top notch, needed, and inspirational. I was amazed at the integrity and poise from which they presented and, as evident from the reception, how well their wisdom was received.

As I introduced the panel, listened to their presentation, and then fielded the questions from a highly engaged audience, I realized I was a part of something very special. The work carried out was enormously effective. I believe many in attendance valued every word that was shared with them.

In my response to the work, I noted that professionals around the country have a responsibility for sharing resources with one another in the wake of tragedy such as Sandy Hook. I admitted that I, myself, contacted the National Writing Project to find materials to help me work with teachers after the school shooting...I felt helpless, but sought inspiration from other communities that dealt with unexpected harshness. I looked to Columbine, Oklahoma, and New Orleans to provide reading and thinking material to our Connecticut community.

In year two of the Newtown Poetry project, I realized that the efforts of my colleagues have offered another tremendous model for healing after a tragic event. Not that I wish harm to any community, but I recognize that sad times inevitably arrive to communities in a wide variety of ways. We need materials to heal, and the session yesterday at NCTE was a remarkable demonstration of what one community has done to cope. I hope that the session was inspirational to all who attended.

I left the morning meeting feeling very proud to be colleagues of Dr. Elizabeth Boquet and poet Carol Ann Davis. I believe their vision and response is one to be replicated by others in response to horrific sadness and violence. From the dark, the light shines through. Of all the work I've done at NCTE this year, this has been the most heart-felt and genuine.

I know I am a better man from being a part of this project. It is a model of writing through tragedy that doesn't forgive the act, but it brings solace to so many affected.

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