Yesterday was the first of 10 sessions teaching poetry to a group of incarcerated boys. Since I have two classes this year they will be class 1 and class 2 (unique, I know.)

Just getting to class yesterday was an event as we are having huge rain storms here in northern California, accompanied by thunder and lighting and hail. I walked into the room and was greeted by cheers (they really like a break in their routine) and a couple of kids shouted out, “She has Sketchers!” Who would have thought that finally, after all these years, I’m wearing something (shoes) the cool kids want to wear.

This class is different from the group I had last year as they have a bit more freedom. You could the room was more relaxed (though we still have a guard in the room.)

I told them a little bit about myself and they were surprised to hear I was 51 years old. They guessed around 31. Good for my ego. We talked about what a rock was in the non-traditional sense. They got it right away and started rattling things off. Then I read them a few poems from my book, Hugging the Rock. This is a very smart group, articulate, and they jumped into conversation right away.

We did an acrostic poem about their name to help me get to know them better. They went right to dictionaries when they needed a word and had no trouble coming up to the front of the class to read their poem out loud. (Except for one kid.) This is going to be a lively group. I can already see a few distinct personalities and that is part of the fun of this type of work.

We brainstormed a list of positive words and I asked them each to pick a word for the day. I told them we’d do this every day that I come in. Next week I will have mini books for them to put their positive words into and keep.

This session is only an hour which I think is better than the 90 minutes I tried before. It means more sessions but I think I can keep their attention better. This group is going to keep me on my toes.

I had them vote on what they wanted to use for art, markers or colored pencils, and again this group picked pencils. I don’t know why it surprised me but it did. It’s good though since colored pencils don’t dry out and I already have a bunch of them.

I’m picking a positive word for each day that I visit them too. For the first visit my word is: POTENTIAL.

These kids are filled with it. I just want to point them in the right direction so they can see it too.