Playing with Poetry

As a forever teacher (although I haven’t been full-time in the classroom for – gasp – almost four years) there’s nothing more fascinating to me than seeing learning and creativity in action. As teachers can attest, literally witnessing that light bulb moment is what makes it all worth it.

I worked with a friend’s organization called Pop Up Play a few days ago. The goal is to inspire leadership and change through play, which I love. My job was to support the youth teen leaders in the word games – a perfect job for me. We had boggle in huge blocks, huge memory cards to lay on the ground, Pictionary with chalk on the sidewalk, and big boxes with letters on all sides to build your own poetry. Once the kids got tired of the huge slide and monkey bars, they usually migrated on over to us.

One young lady said she wanted to create a poem, so we walked over to the word boxes. She kept searching for the perfect words – and as you can expect, some of the words weren’t there. She had this specific phrase in mind that she wanted to make, and she was having trouble seeing any other way around it (sound familiar?).

I told her that she could maybe try to put words together and see what happened. It was a challenge for her. She kept asking for different words, and we kept looking for them and coming up short. Finally, in the last few minutes, she started to play. She started stacking boxes randomly on top of each other, forming different pairings of words. This is what she finally came up with:

“All children speak for joy”.

Maybe this phrase wouldn’t have made perfect grammatical sense, but she was delighted. She had crafted something all on her own, although it wasn’t what she thought she would make when she started.

I always find that young people are my greatest teachers. So often I have a specific idea of how I want something to turn out. I agonize over getting a square peg to fit in a round hole so to speak, and I struggle to make it perfect. Usually when I step back and leave some space for something else, it turns out much better than I thought it would in the first place.

Do you ever find that’s true for you? If you have a story to share about letting go of expectations and creating something different and better than what you thought would happen, please share in the comments!