Sarah Kay is a spoken word poet recently featured at the TED conference. For those who are not up-to-the-second on the hip-technology bandwagon, TED was an intimate refuge of powerful Bill Gates types (including Bill Gates!) that invited speakers that inspire, provide insight and could be catalysts to the new awakening of the white village on the hill. A half-full person feels inspired about education whatever the topic, while a half-empty type can see the next fad coming down the road.
In short, I’m jealous. When I see someone who doesn’t work in the trenches of the daily teaching grind tell the world (via YouTube) that if I only…. (fill in teacher shortcoming here). It’s a like a faculty meeting writ large, but with better content. I hate TED like some folks hate NRP; not for the content (I enjoy both), but for the listeners. If you have emotional distance, it has some really good stuff.
Ms. Kay’s work is centered on her Project VOICE webpage. You can see it here:
This is a simple lesson on spoken word poetry. The video of her reading it is here:
It is also on TeacherTube.
Compare the spoken version to this text. Note that the text is simply a transcribe, so the cuts and enjambments are missing. It’s a mess. Does that matter? Have your kids do it–how does the patter of Ms. Kay match the text, and can this be transcribed at all?
If you aren’t interested in the spoken word, there are other elements to work with here. First, do they like it? Why? Second, how does a focus on a small thing–holding hands–tell the story of a relationship? What tells their life? Forget writing a poem, what object or act defines their relationship with another human being.
A nice accompanying reading is Sandra Cisneros story “Eleven” as the single object of a red sweater holds the keys to the protagonist’s changes.
people used to tell me that i had beautiful hands told me so often, in fact, that one day i started to believe them until i asked my photographer father, “hey daddy could i be a hand model” to which he said no way, i dont remember the reason he gave me and i wouldve been upset, but there were far too many stuffed animals to hold too many homework assignment to write, to manny boys to wave at to many years to grow, we used to have a game, my dad and i about holding hands cus we held hands everywhere, and every time either he or i would whisper a great big number to the other, pretending that we were keeping track of how many times we had held hands that we were sure, this one had to be 8 million 2 thousand 7 hundred and fifty three hands learn more than minds do, hands learn how to hold other hands, how to grip pencils and mold poetry, how to tickle pianos and dribble a basketball, and grip the handles of a bicycle how to hold old people, and touch babies , i love hands like i love people, theyre the maps and compasses in which we navigate our way through life, some people read palms to tell your future, but i read hands to tell your past, each scar marks the story worth telling, each callased palm, each cracked knuckle is a missed punch or years in a factory, now ive seen middle eastern hands clenched in middle eastern fists pounding against each other like war drums, each country sees theyre fists as warriors and others as enemies even if fists alone are only hands. but this is not about politics, no hands arent about politics, this is a poem about love, and fingers. fingers interlock like a beautiful zipper of prayer. one time i grabbed my dads hands so that our fingers interlocked perfectly but he changed positions, saying no that hand hold is for your mom. kids high five, but grown ups, we learn how to shake hands, you need a firm hand shake,but dont hold on too tight, but dont let go too soon, but dont hold down for too long, but hands are not about politics, when did it become so complicated. i always thought its simple. the other day my dad looked at my hands, as if seeing them for the first time, and with laughter behind his eye lids, with all the seriousness a man of his humor could muster, he said you know you got nice hands, you could’ve been a hand model, and before the laughter can escape me, i shake my head at him, and squeeze his hand, 8 million 2 thousand 7 hundred and fifty four.