As National Poetry Month Ends: Some Words of Comfort during a Pandemic

By Brett Vogelsinger, republished with permission from Go Poems.

Since reading a poem is a daily ritual in my class, patterns develop in our poetry selections.  One of those patterns—yes, a pattern students observe in much of the literature we read in English class—is that writers often tackle dense, heavy, depressing topics.  Poetry is no exception.  And I would argue it is important to bring these types of poems to our students.


However, we also live in an age of crushing anxiety, and each year I see more students struggle to maintain their emotional health.  I want to be sure that English class, and particularly a routine that begins our class period most days, does not deliver a daily dose of doom.  Picture the Pavlovian effect of that for a moment:  Bell rings, gloomy poem emerges on the screen, discussion of humanity’s darkest moments ensues. . . what might be the effect of that day after day after day on our students?

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Salvaging a Failed Lesson

By Catherine Conley

Today we finished our third week of online classes, and my last class was the worst online teaching experience I’ve had so far. Usually being in this class is like being on Family Feud. The students encourage each other with chorus of “good job,” “great answer,” “you’re on fire,” “sooo good,” and the like. It is a mixed class of juniors and seniors, but they don’t discriminate. They cheer on all. It is usually such a joy to be with them.

But not today. Instead, they were whiny and negative. There were the regular complaints that they are tired and there is too much work, but it was more than that. They are beginning to feel the effects of staying home so much. They don’t feel well; their backs hurt; their curiosity is dulled. It didn’t help that there was a bit of a tech glitch too so that the question I wanted to post on the Classroom had to be retyped. And of course, it was a long one, so they were waiting while I prepped it. I tried to talk to them as I recreated their assignment, but as most of them do not use their mics and prefer to write their comments in the chat box, I couldn’t see those while I was typing on a different tab. And then, wow, did they misread the passage.

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