A Blog Covering D.C. Education [ABCDE]

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 11 2009

Where My Students Are From and Inner Thoughts

The “Where I’m From” poems somehow seem to unlock my students’ minds.  There must be something particularly stimulating about searching deep inside one’s soul for the language to express one’s identity.  As previously discussed, I had my summer school students write “Where I’m From” poems.  ER’s poem was excellent.  But, now that I have more students, I’m noticing a broader range of creative output–some honestly hilarious, some definitely depressing, and some phenomenally powerful.

After the jump, a smattering of these poems (please read them all!–especially SS1′s and SS2′s).

Before the poems, however, I wanted to mention that after a week of teaching in the DCPS, I’ve thought about a lot of things: I’ve pondered broader issues on my educational philosophy, analyzed the structure and management of the DCPS system, reacted to some of my students’ situations and thought about how physically taxing the act of teaching really is.

But some of these thoughts aren’t PC. Some shouldn’t be shared with just anyone who stumbles across this from the Internet (although I do appreciate all those strangers who stumble across my site!).  From time to time, I will offer some of my inner thoughts.  I’ll password protect these posts.  If you want to read them, email me, Facebook message me or leave a comment on this page. The first one should come this weekend.

AP (the class clown and paper bowtie-wearer) has quite the infatuation for food:

IL perplexes me when she draws a smiley face next to the phrase “Im living in a ghetto life,” as if she were happy about that fact when, clearly, she isn’t:

KN comes from a broken family:

RL shows me that English is clearly not her first language (and that I seriously need to give her individual attention):

PC uses vivid imagery and exceptional allusions:

JS demonstrates that one can suffer so much and still persevere and generate such wonderful language:


Of all my students, however, SS1 shows me exactly the kind of despairing, hopeless attitude that many students at schools that TFA targets possess.  SS1 reveals just how unchangeable she believes her predicament to be and just how neglected she feels.  SS1 is the type of student who makes me furious–furious that we as a country have developed (read: degenerated) in such a way that a teenager like SS1 can already say, with such conviction, what she says as a teenager:

Finally, there is SS2.  He writes with such brilliance–I really should let him speak for himself:

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11 Responses

  1. Hello, poets!

    I wrote the original “Where I’m From” poem and just want to say how moving your poems are to me.

    My poem jumped off a poem by Jo Carson from STORIES I AIN’T TOLD NOBODY YET. I’ll bet you could write back to some of those too.

    For your words,

    George Ella Lyon

  2. Matt

    Long time reader, love the blog.

    Send me the password and I would like to read your thoughts


  3. abcde

    Ms. Lyon, thank you for visiting my blog!

    I don’t know how you came across it, but I’m glad you got a chance to see some of the poems my students have written. They come right from the heart.

    I have to thank YOU for the ways in which my students have opened themselves up in response to your poem. THANK YOU.

    I don’t think my students know just how impressed I am with their work. I’ll have to tell them this week!

    Mr. K

  4. Jin-Soo

    Wow, very powerful. Thanks for posting this! SS1 and SS2′s poems just affirm the importance of teachers. I didn’t do this thinking it wasn’t relevant for a science and math teacher, but this post is making me reconsider that position.

  5. Amy

    I’m a TFA Alum who also has used this activity in every classroom (until this one) that I’ve taught in from 7th grade to college students. I really think that we owe Linda Christiansen and George Ella Lyon a book with the collected I am From poems in them. Great job incorporating your students, knowledge, and experiences in your classroom. I hope you’ll continue to use it as you teach.

  6. I’ve been keeping track of this blog for a while, great work so far. I’d also love to read your inner thoughts about education as I am studying rural education development in China.

  7. Charlie Partridge

    I would be interested in hearing whatyou are learning teaching in the DCPS. Thanks

  8. Maria Garnett

    I’m a first-deadline applicant and I’m so glad you posted this. Whether or not I am chosen as a TFA corps member (and I sincerely hope I am), I will join the movement to end educational inequity BECAUSE of what SS1 wrote. “The powers that be,” especially the Supreme Court, have proven that they do not care to make the changes necessary to ensure equal opportunities for all, and that means it IS up to our generation. Thank you for all that you’re doing. I’m sure you’re exhausted, but I hope you’re equally encouraged.

  9. These are very moving poems, so thank you for sharing them!

  10. Hi friend,

    I liked your blog very much, & i got lots of acquaintance from it. Lets keep continue to educate the peoples through your blog.

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Really, "A Blog Covering Dilemmas in Education": A (former) English teacher's reflections…

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