Friday, September 15, 2017

2 Poems, 2 Lessons Learned From Teaching

Howdy, Campers and Happy Poetry Friday!  The link to PF is below.

Our topic, this orbit around Planet TeachingAuthors, is: Something I learned from teaching or from my students. 

Carmela started us off with Two Things My Students Have Taught Me; Esther followed with My Storied Treasures Treasured Stories! Now it's my turn; what I'm about to share echoes my first post on this blog in 2009. (For info on my up-coming UCLA Extension Writers' Program Picture Book Class, see below)

Two Lessons I've Learned From Teaching:

1) I am a snowflake. creative commons

I've been teaching in the UCLA Extension Writers' Program since 1999. When I was planning my first class, I was petrified. My mantra was: I am a snowflake. When they are in my class, they will learn my snowflakeness. When they take another class, they will learn that teacher's snowflakeness.

It helped.

by April Halprin Wayland

You take your seats
looking up
with puppy eyes

wanting me to be
the exact snowflake
you hoped for.

I explain how I drift,
I explain my six sides,
I explain my melting point.

If I am not what you wanted,
not what you expected,
not what you'd hoped for,

there's different snowflake
down the hall
named Bruce.

poem © 2017 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved

 * * *
2) Wheels are good.

by April Halprin Wayland

 Years ago I learned to pack
 everything I need for the first day of class
 into a suitcase
 rather than that big plastic box I used to schlep.

 Wheels are so much easier.

 So last night I packed
 the roster,
 my updated syllabus,
 red, blue, green and black dry erase markers,
 clear mailing tape to stick quotations on the walls,
 the book I’ve read aloud in the first class for eleven years,
 and 25 copies of the “tell me about yourself” handout on lavender paper.

 My body is buzzing.
 I am slightly nauseous.
 This happens every year.
 There are no vaccination shots for it
 as I roll this suitcase into a new country

poem © 2017 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved

My next class, Writing The Children's Picture Book begins October 3rd. (and if you can't take my on-site class, consider taking UCLA Extension Writers' Program online Picture Book class from author Terry Pierce.)
Thank you, Michelle, for your own poetry and for hosting Poetry Friday at
Today's Little Ditty,
and for promoting the U.N.'s International Day of Peace Day (September 21st)

posted by April Halprin Wayland (with help from Eli, who is also a snowflake)


Brenda at FriendlyFairyTales said...

I like how you use snowflake, owning it as beautiful, unique and particular. It's been in the press so much as an insult to the left, we liberal snowflakes are too easily upset by non-PC verbiage. And yet, to be sensitive is a gift. It makes sweetness sweeter and beauty more gorgeous.

Kay said...

I love the snowflake image in your first poem--each one unique with what it has to offer. Even though experience teaches many lessons (that suitcase is a good idea), the first day is still the first day.

Tabatha said...

It is a new country, isn't it? And there's no way to inoculate yourself. Nicely done.

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

Both poems are terrific, April, but what I think I like most is the poem in between, so to speak. Thinking about that 11 year progression from then till now, and how your snowflake has grown and developed into the complex poet-teacher that you are today... as beautiful as ever. xo

Carla Killough McClafferty said...

April, this is beautiful!

Linda B said...

It never changes, those first-day nerves, and your snowflake image is one I've never thought of in connection, so good! I wish I could be 'on site' & take your class.

Bobbi Miller said...

This is grand. I love these poems!

Carmela Martino said...

I agree with Linda B about how the first-day jitters never change. I guess that's good; it means we still care. :-)
Hope your new class kicks off to a great start!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Brenda ~ Thank you. I'd forgotten the other use of the word snowflake...I like how you phrase your comment:"to be sensitive is a gift. It makes sweetness sweeter and beauty more gorgeous." <3

Kay ~ You're right: the first day is still the first day. I set up my room, we sniff each other and size up what this class is, what it will become.

Tabatha ~ Thank you. I went searching through my poems tagged with the words "teach" "student" etc...and found that one from 2011. It's funny how when you haven't read one of your own poems in a long time, it can tickle you, right? I like that ending, too!

Michelle ~ Thank you. I like the idea of a "poem in between" ~ a possible topic for a poem, don't you think?

Carla ~ Thank you!

Linda ~ If you did take my class, I would love it and I would also be shaking in my boots!

Bobbi ~ I like that word--grand--thanks!

Carmela ~ thank you. Yes, I think it does mean we care...and that uncertainty makes the class more interesting. A bit like a high-wire act.

CS Perryess said...

April -- I absolutely love "Wheels Are Good." Tat slightly nauseous feeling! Oh yeah. In my first 25 or so years of teaching middle school I'd get started 3-4 weeks early: plans, bulletin boards, changed plans, seating arrangement, changed plans....I'd ramp up myself up into this crazed state of insanity, until a couple days before the kids showed up I'd have this incredibly freeing epiphany -- "Oh, that's right. It's impossible. Millions of teachers do this job all around the globe & it's impossible!" It wasn't until 25+ years that I could laugh about it, knowing the epiphany would come, knowing exactly what it would be, & reaching it anyway. Thanks for reminding me.

Robyn Hood Black said...

Well done, my friend - you are such an awesome writer, teacher, snowflake. Lucky students, then and now! XO

April Halprin Wayland said...

CS ~ I love the way you summarize this. I forget that the world over, many of us teachers (most of us?) panic as we prepare.

And Robyn ~ thank you my artsy, awesome writer friend!

michelle kogan said...

Hi April, your "Snowflake" poem is the icing on the cake, wonderful, we sure can't be everything to everyone all the time. I like the matter-of-fact straight forwardness in your poem, it reminds me of Mary Oliver. And ditto on the second poem-I feel I was right there with you. All the best with the next class.