Why Poetry? Why Art?
I like to get up early, an hour or so before I need to, and read poetry. In that quiet time when the rest of my world is still dreaming, my mind is loose. It is as if I am still dreaming. I read and then I write and in the writing I discover thoughts and ideas that I might never have encountered in any other way.
When I was teaching I would tell stories.
Stories which might seem unconnected with the work at hand. One of my favourites was to tell was the story of Lady Macbeth at the beginning of science and maths lessons. It was unexpected. What did I think I was doing? How did it fit the curriculum planned for that day? How could it possibly be relevant to the maths or the science on the timetable?
I didn’t know. There’s the rub. I couldn’t say in advance what connections pupils would make, how their developing, imaginative, creative brains might link two thoughts, two experiences, one lesson and one dream, and come up with something entirely new that transformed their understanding.
But they did. Time and time again they amazed me by learning something I could not have taught them in any other way.
Science and maths
In a lesson timetabled SCIENCE we were studying autumn and natural cycles. I told the story. A six year old boy, already labelled ‘difficult’, stood up and said “The leaves smell brown”. That was the first indication that he had engaged with the topic at any level.
A 13 year old girl whose special needs report stated ‘unable to sit still for more than 2 minutes’ and was being considered for the label ‘autistic’ because of her ‘complete inability to empathise’ took on the role of Lady M and strode around the classroom quoting “Out, damned spot! out, I say!” for a few minutes after which she looked me straight in the eye and said “Thank you Miss, I feel better now” before sitting down and concentrating for the entire MATHS lesson.
These snapshots from my past inform my future. We cannot know for sure what response our communication will evoke but if want to create new possibilities for the future we can turn to art for a moment and allow our minds to loosen. Maybe we will dream up something we could never have imagined in any other way.