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The dude with Tourette’s woke me up!, so Im waking you up!

19 May

As the dude with Tourette’s who lives in one of the flats downstairs abruptly wakes me from my slumber at 6am…. I’m inspired to blog: 

As Say Sumthin 7 fast approaches and so the making of the show begins, most of the other interns and I met for a meeting about it all. The meeting was full of delegation, bouncing back and forth fresh ideas, our theme ‘Displacement’ and analysis there of, recollections of past Say Sumthin events and fumes from the freshly painted Nottingham Writers Studio walls. We kept the doors open so that we could breath and it was a uncharacteristically sunny day.

As the machinations of mouthy occurred, we were interrupted by 3 school kids at door, 2 cute dark skinned black girls both with long braids and spectacles and a dark skinned boy equally cute with a very small afro with inquisitively large brown eyes all decked out in smart navy school uniforms, with blazers that had the words Nottingham Academy embroidered in white on each of their lapels, As they asked themselves …

‘Can we go in?’

We said ‘yes of course come in!…’ of course. 
They looked at me as they cautiously eased into the room, one of the girl students recognised me from somewhere.

‘Oh its Honey!!’

Then a flurry of un-shy questions followed, their statures changed, now un-afraid they enquired about what the building was for? Writing and poetry. They were very eager to be involved and were already fully aware of Mouthy Poets and Deborah Stevenson as one of us teaches poetry at Greenwood, Nottingham Academy (of which made me feel proud of Mouthy)

I knew that one of the reasons why they may have felt a tad more comfortable about being able to effectively trespass into the building is because they saw a black face sitting in there and a familiar one at that, made them feel safe enough to ‘say somethin’.

Got me thinking about how daunting a prospect it can be at times, being the only black person or ‘non-white’ person in the room and wanting to express yourself. You as a Black person may fear that you may be misunderstood, dismissed, underestimated due to the plethora of negative stereotypes made about black people pumped out into the world into our heads via media, arts, books all forms of communication, daily. 

Which coincided with an article I stumbled across an article yesterday:

“There’s Been a Stunning Trend in Children’s Books Over the Last 12 Years”

By Elena Sheppard May 2, 2014

http://www.policymic.com/articles/88811/there-s-been-a-stunning-trend-in-children-s-books-over-the-last-12-years?utm_source=policymicTBLR&utm_medium=main&utm_campaign=social

‘Since 2002, the number of children’s books published in the United States has increased, but the number of children’s books about people of color has decreased’

tumblr_n4ytrkiPZD1r83d7lo2_500 tumblr_n4ytrkiPZD1r83d7lo1_500 tumblr_n4ytrkiPZD1r83d7lo4_500 tumblr_n4ytrkiPZD1r83d7lo9_500

Then I wondered what about the UK? Would the stats the same? Then I found this article that had been written before the American one.

“YOU CAN’T DO THAT! STORIES HAVE TO BE ABOUT WHITE PEOPLE”

Young Writers of Colour by Darren ChettyDecember 7, 2013

http://mediadiversified.org/2013/12/07/you-cant-do-that-stories-have-to-be-about-white-people/

Of late I feel that some in the west have become complacent about race, ‘ethnic minorities’ now have rights, what more could they want? Everything’s fine now, my best mate is black etc. The temptation has been to see whiteness as a default human setting ‘normal’, when in reality human comes in all shades from the darkest of browns to the palest of whites. Sadly the arts/literature is not reflecting this though.

When you are reflected it can make you feel as though your views/ opinions/ ideas/ artistic expression/ voices important, powerful, interesting, beautiful, intelligent, amazing enough to be depicted in any book or poem etc. Plus I find it inspiring to learn about different perspectives, it’s as if you are travelling the earth through peoples minds.

….I mean what’s the point of having a whole paint box full of colour’s and only continuing to use just 1 same colour year in year out? zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz yawn (cliched but poiniant).

I think that Mouthy Poets can help this situation by promoting diversity and actually continuously working at being diverse, in terms of race as well as other things such as LGBTQ, nationality, language, religion, size, ability, class, ethnicity, culture and how all of those identities intersect perhaps poetically. (cos Id hate for us to become complacent too)

I’ve often wondered why the universe chose to put me in a flat above a dude with Tourette’s Perhaps he acts as a constant reminder of how important and how compulsive it should be to want to continue to express myself too.

 

by Honey Williams
t: @honeywilliams ….tweet me if you feel me

Teaching Tips

25 Jan

5 Top Poetry Tips by Matt Miller.

 

I have been teaching weekly at Arnold Hill now for around ten months, and along the way have learned a thing or two. After all that time, I think I’d be alright in thinking I’m at least some way qualified to give 5 Top Poetry Teaching Tips. I will not profess these to be my top 5, because my Top-5-anythings tend to change fairly regularly, but here we are:

 

  • Listen, for God’s sake listen!
    • Listen to your class and determine what they want and need and the direction they want to move in. They’ll have some good ideas. Use them, steal, roll with them and everyone will be happier. Of course its important to have your own plans and ideas but giving time to respond to student input is no bad thing.

 

  • Stay on your toes, baby
    • Have formulas. Formulas are good when they work. They’re lovely. Routines are good for most people, I think. But classroom dynamics and needs seem to have a way of shifting around a fair bit. Use your formulas  but don’t let the routine of them blind you to the dynamics wiggling. Keep an eye out for when things need to change and don’t be afraid to do so.

 

  • Do as I say, do as I do
    • I usually find, if I have anytime at all, that it’s a good idea for me to run through the exercises I’m planning to set my students myself before the session. It makes me more confident with introducing the exercise, allows for better timing and, if needs be, provides me with an example of my own response to the exercise that can help to underline my explanation of it.

 

  • Bring the atmosphere
    • Enter the classroom carrying the atmosphere you want to create. Come in smiling. Come in energetic, positive, prepared, calm, measured, ready, eager, bright eyed, bushy tailed. Or whatever your preferred mood for the session may be. Embody it.

 

  • Keep it relevant
    • There are a million writing and teaching exercises out there. Oh internet, you ever present friend. But if you don’t get the grasp of the exercise yourself, it isn’t ever gonna work. If it’s a nice exercise that you really like the sound of but it’s not relevant to your session, it aint likely to work. Use teaching exercises on the internet for inspiration, steal your favourite lines, but make them your own somehow. You’ll understand them better and it’ll work better.

 

There we are. There’s more, of course, but I think those are 5 useful ones. It’s also very important, I find, to keep a record of sessions – type up how things went, keep your exercises and plans in a folder, refer back to them, remind yourself of what you’ve done, what worked, what didn’t, don’t throw stuff away. Let’s call that number 6 then; Record and reflect. And enjoy it. That’s good too.

 

TOP 5 TIPS ON TEACHING PERFORMANCE POETRY IN SCHOOL, BY KAI

22 Jan
  1. If you only have one or two periods, think of how you can make your lesson as effective as possible in terms of time. Rehearse how you instruct the exercises and try to make the instructions concise and simple. Also, instead of handing out sheets of paper during the lesson, distribute them on the chairs, if they need paper for the first exercise.
  2. When the students are talking with each other and do not listen to your instruction, don’t overuse “Respect the Mic!” (because it can become meaningless and like “shh”, like shut up). Instead, whisper your instructions, change your pitch, speak like goofy, or speak directly to the one who is talking (but without telling him that he should stop talking), or you can change your position in the room in silence. The students then will notice that instructions are coming or that they need to be quiet and listen to the instructions.
  3. If you want the students to give feedback on your session, use post-it-notes! Use different colors for positive and constructive/ negative feedback. In order to get more specific feedback, e.g. let them use a metaphor (if you’ve done a session on metaphors) to evaluate the session. Or let them compare the session to animals, vegetables, clothes, etc. They might come up with a feedback like “The session was like new shoes I had to wear in.” or “It was a cup of coffee, warming and refreshing.”
  4. Always do a small projection exercise before they share their writings: Stand / sit straight, both feet firmly on the ground, shoulders back, imagine that your spine wants to reach your chin, but your chin stays up. Don’t forget to breathe! Look into each other’s eyes. You want them to hear your voice.
  5. If the students don’t have much energy and are tired, do this quick exercise: Stretch your arms, shoulders, legs. Then Yawn together very loudly and open your mouth as much as you can. Do this together and repeat the yawn two or three times. This takes maximum 3 minutes.

Top 5 poetry-teaching tips

22 Jan

 

  1. Before anything else, teach them how to free-write. The privacy and personal freedom gets them in the writing ‘zone’.
  2. Be ridiculously organised and understand all of your activities but let the students sway the session.
  3. Give them their own poetry books. This becomes a sacred space where honesty appears most.
  4. ‘I can’t’ seems to linger in the classroom. These two tactics have been the most effective: Say ‘I’ve seen you perform before’ with a knowing facial expression that says ‘.. and you were amazing’, or simply ignore the comment and they miraculously continue.
  5. Provide lots of colourful pens.