Learning to Teach

Two weeks ago I was granted the opportunity to teach a workshop class. It was not only thrilling but incredibly intimidating. I have never taught a class nor have I had the opportunity to run the show. Not to mention, most participants were older and had much more life experience than I had. I walked into our meeting area, gathered my workshop materials with shaky hands and began the workshop. My voice was trembling as I asked for someone to read the poem I brought aloud, I couldn’t help but to think “Please someone volunteer so I don’t have to sit here awkwardly anymore.” Of course someone graciously volunteered and my heart jumped with anticipation. After the poem was read we sat there for a moment in silence, something I learned was ok when facilitating a discussion. Although I could not help but wonder, “Did they like the poem? Is it too dark? Is it not deep enough?” After what felt like a lifetime, someone finally said, “This is lovely!” A sigh of relief; she too understood what I loved about this poem. This was an electrifying moment – poetry I love brought everyone into an enthusiastic debate. Their enthusiasm settled my shaky hands and worried mind. Their passion, for not only poetry but learning as a community, made my trembling voice confident, strong.

I felt inspired. We were discussing poetry, and enjoying the poems. I found a love for instructing and learning from those around me. Many participants commented on the poems I brought, changing my perspective of their meaning. “She was clearly discussing a man in her life,” one gentleman suggested. “It could have been about her child,” another woman offered. Interesting, I thought, Perhaps it was about a child, I too thought it was about the man in her life. We can all take away our own meanings, our own emotions and experiences. Someone even asked me “Well what do you think she is writing about in this poem?” It was such an encouraging moment. I had sheets and sheets of notepad paper scribbled with notes about this poem. I closed my folder and thought for a moment – as a poet: “She’s speaking of love, whether that be for a man, a child or anyone else. She feels love that is so overwhelming she had to write it down, to give it to others, so maybe they could feel too.” It was beautiful- the moment a gentlemen read his own work aloud, his own passion and despairs for everyone to hear.

I learned how to facilitate a discussion that day, while letting everyone openly and freely discuss their love and hate relationship with poetry. Not only did we find comfort among each other’s work we were able to openly discuss tough topics that most of us were or are dealing with. These participants made me feel inspired because of their passion, I too found a renewed passion for poetry. I also was inspired to give the gift of poetry to others, to lead educated and passionate discussions, to openly discuss my own love for poetry.

The community members taught me another important lesson – always remaining humble. Everyone had something to be proud of whether that be a publication, a beautiful piece of poetry, formal education or life experience. In the Poetry Project, everyone came eager to learn, share their ideas and work together to create something beautiful.

-Kristen

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