Begin the morning at school with poetry

Begin the morning at school with poetry


During the first and second waves of Covid-19 and the consequential lockdowns, only teachers attended school. After confusion during the initial days, schools focused on augmenting the capacities of teachers.

As the routine set in, some of us teachers began brainstorming on how we would begin the day. The common consensus was poetry. Two teachers, on rotation, would recite a poem each, to commence the activities of the day. We initiated this without too much fuss and and this worked out.  

Over a period of time, the teachers moved from relatively simple poems to heavily metaphorical poetry. They moved from religious poetry to imagery, from classical poems to those that were experimental and fresh. Similarly, teachers focused on Hindi poetry initially but slowly also included Sanskrit, Bhojpuri and English poems. 

In this period, the change in the manner of recitation was also perceptible. Teachers also began talking about poems and poets. 

High participation

Participation was high. A colleague who helps with cleaning at the school also joined in. He would listen to poetry on YouTube, write them down and recite them multiple times before his turn. 

However, the websites teachers would refer to not only had a limited range of poems but also had generous doses of errors, some poems were simply incomplete. We decided to get new books on poetry at the school and made them easily accessible. 

Reading poetry out loud enabled a return to books and to reading for teachers. To recite a single poem they had to read a few. Some of them took this opportunity to venture out of their comfort zones. The works that the teachers selected brought out elements of their personalities. This included interests and traits their colleagues were not aware of. 

Mornings turned out to be more lively and positive. It was not perceived as a chore — but an activity all enjoyed, an activity for which they all waited for their turn. Day-time conversations brought in debates on words and language. These included questions ranging from whether they taught poetry appropriately at school to whether poetry could be taught at all.

We have just started our exploration of poetry. We are only now starting to understand how reading poetry loudly is different from reading it silently and both of these are distinct from listening to poetry. We are keen to walk the road ahead. 

However, for a culture that has its epics in verse, today as a society, we are singularly distant from poems. If poetry is disappearing from our lives can we create spaces like these? Give poetry the time it warrants? 

This brings us to our next question. Will this work effectively with children as well? As of today, we do not have a clear understanding of how some or all of this will impact the teachers and as a corollary their actions with students. 

However, we do have faith in poetry, in its ability to impact people. Poetry, to quote Lucille Clifton, is a matter of life, not just of language. 

(The writers are educators) 

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