Monday, March 1, 2010

Lightbulbs and Stories

I caught up with a student I had last semester in my Poetry class today in the lobby during my prep period. His growth as a poet over the course of half a year was nothing short of remarkable, particularly in terms of developing his own style and themes. He's working on moving on the next step artistically now--changing up styles and themes.

He told me that he is trying to write a series of poems set up as short stories. He has the imagination and the vocabulary to really make an impact, which is cool ... and it's even cooler that he's challenging himself. Coolest of all, though, is the increase in confidence this kid is demonstrating.

"I want to write about a light bulb," he said.

I looked at him quizzically. "A light bulb?"

"Well, about a guy who wakes up one morning and sees a light bulb. It sort of makes him ..."

"See the light?"

He laughed. "Yeah, pretty much. You know, it's interesting about light bulbs."

"How so?"

"Well, if you turn a light bulb on, it means one thing metaphorically and if you turn it off, it means something else." He paused. "But then, if you think about it, it could mean the exact opposite. Both on and off."

I didn't know what to say to that, so I said, "You should write a story about Thomas Edison and the invention of the light bulb. And use the word 'illumination.'"

"Nah, I've already used the word 'illumination' in a lot of my poems."

"That's true."

"And I think I'd rather try to write a story about a guy who wakes up and sees a lightbulb and starts going in those metaphoric directions. Not that Thomas Edison isn't interesting," he added quickly.

"Well, make sure you let me read it when you're done," I said.

He smiled. "I'm sure you'll be reading it before it's done."

As he went to class, it occurred to me the true value of a teacher. Honestly, this kid and his classmates taught me more about writing poetry than I ever taught them, and yet they give me so much credit ... and for what?

It's just a matter of believing in them, of giving them the time and space and support to find their own voices. Some kids never do, of course, but when it does work out, it is just one of the most amazing feelings in the world : )