In the spring semester of 2021, RSU 40 English teacher Heather Webster embarked on a project to encourage her students to utilize their creative side. She guided students through completing an “I am” poem following a standard structure- each line begins with a statement about oneself. She chose this creative writing journey for her students because “I am” poems give space for students to be open, honest, and vulnerable with their teacher and classmates, a deep connection that has been missing for many students and teachers throughout the rollercoaster of changes brought on by the pandemic.
One day, walking down the hall shortly after starting the poetry unit, Webster noticed a wall of self-portrait. She went to take a closer look and realized that Brooke Holland, RSU 40 art teacher, had beat her to the “I am” poems with her students (many of which overlapped with Webster’s students). Webster was immediately impressed with the work of the students. “I realized that the poems demonstrated wonderful common threads from our students’ experiences,” Webster stated. More specifically, Webster was awed at the commonality between each students’ pandemic experience, which they shared in their poems.
Reflecting on the start of the COVID19 pandemic, Webster remembers how hard it was to get students to participate and also reflects on how silent students became. She met with her colleague Holland and discussed how impressed they were with their students. After a year and a half of silent students, seeing the students’ creative sides and hearing personal reflections on the pandemic was so enlightening for both teachers. The “I am” poem project gave both teachers insight into their students’ lives over the past year. Both teachers had been feeling distant from their students over the course of the pandemic, but this project allowed them to know their students on a personal level once again. Webster notes that after a year of non-stop discussion of learning loss, “[The students] will be okay. It will be okay.”
Heather Webster was the 2020 Lincoln County Teacher of the Year and a Maine teacher of the Year Finalist. Her podcast on the experience of the “I am” poem can be listened to below.
Non Fiction Final Project
This article was written by Maine DOE Intern Clio Bersani in collaboration with RSU 40 as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. To submit a story or an idea email it to Rachel at firstname.lastname@example.org