Thanks to a grant secured by UNCW’s Office of Cultural Arts, DC Virgo Middle School has become a hotbed of original poetry. Throughout this week, the sixth- and seventh-graders are work-shopping personal poems under the guidance of a teaching artist from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. WHQR’s Katie O’Reilly reports that New Hanover County Schools are one of only two districts in the state to enjoy such opportunities through the Kennedy Center.
North Carolina native Glenis Redmond, an acclaimed poet and performer, kicks off the first classroom workshop with a reading of the late Nelson Mandela’s favorite poem. William Ernest Hensley’s “Invictus” famously explores themes of bullying and punishment, and through a series of brainstorming exercises, Redmond gets the kids to write down their own experiences being bullied.
"So that means three stanzas—does everybody understand? But here’s the point of the poem—I need you guys to be truthful. Does everybody understand?"
The objective of the teaching artist residencies is to further engage students in core subjects such as language arts and literacy. Redmond says she also seeks to help disadvantaged students to confront deeper issues.
"There were a couple of tears I saw in the classroom as they were writing. Some got a little reticent, because it’s a hard subject matter. But I don’t back off from that, because my job as a teaching artist is to expose them to things they may not have encountered, or even talked about, or revealed, even to themselves."
Every day this week, Redmond will be working with students. And on Friday, they’ll host a reading of their original work.