|Anis Mojgani, Brendan Constantine, Sean Thomas Dougherty, and Dave Caserio|
On Friday, Oct. 24, I had the pleasure of tagging along with GHS students and teachers on a field trip to The Dodge Poetry Festival in Newark, NJ. The festival is held every two years and celebrates the written word over the course of four days. Friday is traditionally a free day for high school students to attend. We attended various workshops that focused on one poet or featured a panel of poets. Getting to listen to them read and speak about their craft was a powerful experience for all of us. As a teacher of writing, it was amazing to hear these esteemed poets reaffirm beliefs that I try to instill in my own student writers very fulfilling. I left with my confidence strengthened that for my students who may pursue a life of writing, my class might offer them a time where they felt supported in that endeavor.
As the trip approached, I not only looked forward to the festival but also to spending the day with some of my former 7th graders. Reading the list of participants made me a bit giddy as I saw that I would get an opportunity to reconnect with students in a way that I had never had before. Reconnecting through a common interest in writing. Some of these students were ones I had told when they were 12 that I felt they were destined to be writers. Seeing that they had been nominated and had accepted the invitation to attend this poetry festival just made me happy. And knowing that I would get to go on this day-long journey with them was truly joyful. Not to mention I got to meet new students who were so friendly and sweet. All 40 students were great.
My favorite part of the day was when I made an executive decision to skip our scheduled session and go to another one on Poetry and Performance that featured a favorite poet of mine, Anis Mojgani. It turned out to be the highlight of our day and the one that my group of nine students thought would be the one they would remember the most. Here is a clip from Anis' encore poem:
For our final workshop, we attended a session on Poetry and Music in this amazing theater. We all were in awe of the space as we entered the balcony. It was a wonderful way to end the day. I think we all sat there grateful for the experiences we had together.
It was a poetically exquisite day spent with some amazing individuals. I am so appreciative that field trips are still part of the education we offer to students in Guilderland. This is mostly thanks to our parents, who are able to fund their children to go on any trip. I know other districts are not so lucky. And I know, too, that when budgets are tight, funding field trips seems like a misallocation of already dwindling funds. This, to me, is sad. The times where we are able to take our students out of our classrooms to experience the world can be life changing for some. It can open their eyes to things they might never discover. It is, I believe, a critical part of any education. These experiences demonstrate to kids what the world has to offer and, in the process, they might discover what they have to offer the world.