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POETRY TEACHER

I can teach poetry at your school or other site as an artist-in-residence.  A residency can be short as a week (or even shorter), and it can be much longer.

At their best, my poetry residencies in schools create a transformational experience for everyone involved. I teach as an artist-in-residence throughout Humboldt County and beyond with California Poets in the Schools. I've been doing this work since 1996, reaching about a thousand students each year among more than eighty sites, including some in Del Norte, Mendocino, Siskiyou, and Santa Cruz counties, as well as Australia. Funding comes from any number of sources, whether Gifted and Talented Education, classroom funds, site discretionary funds, Title I, staff development, and so on. I make each teaching session intensely fun, lively, and academically rigorous.

Each session begins with a language warm-up, sometimes as a game, sometimes with my performing and/or reciting poetry from memory, as to lead to discussions about memorization, meter, rhyme, alliteration, and so on. Then we add words to an ongoing vocabulary list inside the students' journals—usually simplistic journals with binder paper stapled between stock paper. Then comes a lesson plan in which I usually hand out a two-sided photocopy with lots of poems on it, by other students and by published poets, which we read and study together. After we read, I ask prompts to generate written notes in the journals, these notes often being the base for students' poems; and frequently I use different media and materials to help activate the senses and the imagination: physical objects, artwork, recorded sounds, etc. We all write together, with me (and perhaps the classroom teacher and aides) helping students as needed; and finally we read some of our work aloud. I have all kinds of lesson plans, though I generally use a certain series when first encountering a class. Some schools have brought me in year after year to work with the same kids, so I use different plans over time.

Alternative education, often taught in continuation schools, has become a regular part of my teaching experience. I return again and again to some sites where my presence has made poetry a normal component, allowing students to express themselves in ways that no other outlet has accommodated for them; often their expression is brutally and beautifully honest and compelling. Jen Fairbanks, principal of the HCOE Court and Community Schools, has had me working at specific sites, each year's work culminating in an anthology which all students receive copies of. I compiled the first four anthologies into a book, The Real Me Doesn’t Show, which can be ordered online. Included in these sites are Von Humboldt Court School in juvenile hall, and New Horizons School where the students are locked inside the facility. The students have come to personally trust me, which I find makes a world of difference in this situation. Other continuation schools I've worked in include Pacific Coast High, Tsurai High, Sanhedrin High, Eel River Community High, Probation Environmental Preservation Project, Eureka Community School at the Educational Resource Center (and formerly at 5th & M, and 4th & D), Zoe Barnum High, East High, Humboldt Bay High, and Northern Humboldt Community Day School.

When I teach distant residencies, I either stay with friends or have other arrangements made regarding accommodations for the typical week or two of a residency, as it's too far a daily commute from my home, and hotels are cost-prohibitive. I do rely on the kindness of others for somewhere to stay. This might automatically make arranging a residency tricky, but it's always been worthwhile, and I'm told I'm an ideal and grateful guest.