Recently, I’ve been trying to think of ways to better unite my staff for the purpose of having deep and meaningful discussions around equity. To have any kind of personal conversation, there has to be a sense of safety. Just as we would set up our classrooms so that our students could take risks, it is imperative that we set up our library, our staff room, our work room– any place where we may meet our colleagues– as safe and sacred places for our growth. This is not an easy task.
Gary Howard suggests doing an “I Am From” poem to help get to know your community. When we did this activity as a large group, I’ll tell you, I had no intention of putting anything on paper that would be emotionally charged or too revealing of my life. I mean, please, I was in a group of eight other staff members and no one needs a sob story in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon. But by the last sentence of my poem, I was choking up, and impatiently brushing away tears as I read to my table partner. No matter how insignificant the details, everyone has a story that tries to escape out of them.
That being said, I don’t need my story to escape out of me as I lead professional development, so I had to rethink a little. Instead, I thought of our reason for doing this activity in the first place– the kids. What are their stories? What seemingly unimportant facts about them really beg for a listening ear? This was the result.
Although it was powerful to have the chance to write my own “I Am From,” I really liked the result of creating a class poem. We are all on that big white page, all included on a bigger entity than ourselves, wanting to be loved and happy and safe. We have a clear classroom identity, and I want my kids to know it. I want them to feel it. Because once we feel it, we can solve problems and talk and change things.
And maybe if we feel more unity as a staff, we’ll be able to change things too.
We Are From Template
I am from (things you see around your house), (things you find in your bedroom), (things you find in your yard).
I am from (music you love) and (music)
I am from (a place you go to a lot) and (a place) and (a place)
I am from (color) and (color) and (color) eyes.
I am from (who is in your family)
I am from (something your mom says a lot) and (something dad says a lot)
I am from (describe a sibling) and (describe a sibling)
I am from (food you eat for breakfast) mornings and (food you eat for dinner) nights.
I am from (something that happened to you that was scary)
I am from (something that happened to you that was sad)
I am from (something that happened to you that was happy)
I am from (where you live).
I am from (how your house smells).
I am from (a feeling you get when you are home).
My dog also has an Instagram, and it's better than anyone's. @mrdarcy_theiggy