Poem by Olivia Veley

Posted: October 2, 2017

Where I’m From

We all have a desire to be known, and yet it can sometimes be more comfortable to just blend in. Being known means that who we are is revealed a layer at a time to the outside world. That’s risky.

This kind of dynamic plays out every day in middle school, where students try to navigate the adolescent years of discovery. Discovery is not just about finding out what is important to you as an individual, it’s also about learning what is important to others and why. We want students who are comfortable exploring their own identity, because they are open and empathetic to other people’s experiences.

When we think about our mission of seeing and serving each student, it’s critical that we provide opportunities for students to share who they are and also opportunities to learn about others. The reality is that it is not just middle school students working through this struggle of self-awareness and empathy. This struggle is something that connects us all, because we experience it each day. We see examples of individuals with a strong sense of purpose and also compassionate empathy. This combination creates the space for dialogue where learning and growth can happen. It can be transformative when it does. Unfortunately, we also see counter-examples.

As I was visiting classrooms last week, I came across a great example of this work in Kaetlyn Robert’s seventh-grade classroom. The assignment was to write poetry centered around the anaphora I am from using mentor texts and guided identity brainstorms. Kaetlyn shared, “’Where I’m From’ poetry helps to create empathy in our classroom. Students brainstorm and share the stories through multiple perspectives such as nature, food, and ancestors. I’m always impressed how thoughtful and vulnerable students become during the process. We are able to connect with each other in a meaningful way and students end up with an awesome piece of writing.”

I’ve include an example from Olivia Veley that was hanging on the wall that was full of JOY and HOPE. I love that when you read the poem, you can really start to get to know the student and there are also questions you want to ask the student to get to know them better. Oliva said, “I liked the structure of the poetry. It helped me focus. It was really fun hearing everyone’s stories and learning about their ancestors.”

Thanks for the work you do supporting students as they discover themselves through learning more about others. I hope you have a great week!

Jeff