Friday was the eighth session of the Incarcerated teens poetry class.

I love the familiarity with the students in the class now. The way they greet me and the way they finally call me by name instead of “Mam” all the time. I love the way they grumble and then give me a sideways smile before they settle into their work for the day.

Friday was a mish mash. Since we only have a few sessions left it’s time to start thinking about the display for the museum exhibit. I had hoped to do Glogs with them but further investigation into their options at school made that not possible. The teacher knows more about them now and can utilize the learning path FreshBrain made for them for the future but it was just too much for this time with them. A Glog would have been a great way for them to add music and graphics and video to illustrate their poem but the restriction on the Internet usage is too great. In the future what I will do is put together a batch of approved graphics and music on a flash drive so they can upload from there.

They picked out their favorite poem to copy and illustrate but they are haphazard at best and I don’t know that it shows their work to their best efforts. Sometime between now and Monday I need to come up with a better way for them to do something, I’m thinking a collaged background that I can mount their poems to. It has to be something they can finish quickly.

Their thoughts are scattered as many of them are in and out of the class doing testing. One student is getting ready to exit next week. We spoke a little bit about his fears. I can see him trying to wrap his brain around the enormousness of the changes ahead of him. Another one, the next one to exit in March, is learning about going to college to study business. It was the first I had heard him speak of it and it made me smile because, if you could see this student you’d see success written all over him. He has the charisma to succeed if he just applies himself.

I’ve been reflecting on what worked and didn’t work in these sessions. I’ve made some goofs, as I often do. It’s a learning experience for me as much as it is for them. This is the third time I’ve tried individual art projects to illustrate a poem and each time it has been less than successful. I think I need to drop that idea for now. The word books were a great idea in theory but I may have introduced them at the wrong time. I think having them give me a word for the day each session is great and they could keep a list and then we could build a book toward the end. I chose small accordion books that were easy to make and could fit in their pocket. My idea was to laminate them with packing tape when they were done. But only a couple of the students is into the idea of having it to take with him. Another is trying to copy long poems onto the tiny pages. So I’ll have to think some more on how to work this with my next group. I do love that they now have a list of words that matter to them. (Hmmm….maybe I can get them to do some art with their words if I print them out large and let them collage them?)

I read them a lot of poems but I don’t think I read them enough. I blame that on my poor memory. I need to find poems in the off-season and then make a list so I can find them easily. Trying to scan a dozen books each night before class doesn’t work very well.

I find I feel more confident in dealing with the students than I do with poetry itself. So many things I just “do” and I’m not good at figuring out the how and why and explaining it to them. What’s worked best has been doing a group poem with them as a warm-up to writing. They’re a vocal group and they all love to get the attention from giving a great line for the poem.

We had the opportunity for an impromptu math lesson when they teased that I was going to take their work and get rich on it. I showed them a bit about how the publishing world works with advances and royalties and the length of time between payments. They shook their heads at the dollar amounts and told me someone had done me wrong with my contract because I couldn’t live on that. Then they asked me why, why do I keep on doing it?

For love, I told them. Still, they shook their heads, not able or willing to comprehend my craziness.

I do get rich off of them but not in the way they feared. I get rich with emotion and real life. They don’t realize it but they give me inspiration to carry me into writing for a long, long time.