“What happens to a dream, deferred?”
That’s the question Langston Hughes poses in “Harlem,” the poem we read and emulated today in the Monday juvenile class. But before we discussed Hughes, or Harlem, or dreams, we jumped right into sharing. I’d say 7 out of the 16 kids sang at least a hook or a verse, all of it memorized. Some of the melodies were really catchy, too, and went perfectly with the hooks.
One of our students is leaving tomorrow, and he led off sharing. There is such mixed emotion with arrival and departure, in this place. Going anywhere else, whether it’s upstate or home, means a much less stressful environment, but it also tends to be much harsher. It was so nice to be able to say goodbye to him. I still have the hook from his performance from last year in my head sometimes, it was that good.
After sharing, we talked about dreams (real dreams), goals, and their intersections. This lead into close reading “Harlem,” and how he utilizes the five senses.
I created a fill in the blank poem and the kids jumped right into making their own comparisons: “Does it smell moldy like wet paper?” “Does it float around like a plastic water bottle.” I asked them to memorize their poems for next week. I’m really excited to see what they come up with!
I found a really cool teaching source in pedagogy that paired hip-hop songs with poetry called Hip-Hop Poetry and The Classics For The Classroom. My favorite was so far is a worksheet for “Harlem” and Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy.” We didn’t have time to look at both in a week, so I think we’ll listen to Biggie next week, and write to the prompt: “It was all a dream…”
To be honest, when this class goes well, it makes my whole week brighter. These kids are so talented and I am honored that they even listen to my advice about hooks and rhymes (and anything, really). I think I should probably read up some more on songwriting, in general, because these kids are going to run circles around me.
Thanks for reading.
Mike Bennett, Words Without Walls Teacher