The Poetry Inside Out workshop met at the University of California San Diego campus, the home of the San Diego Area Writing Project (SDAWP). In addition to welcoming a new group of teachers to our ever-growing community, the workshop marked the beginning of our partnership with SDAWP, the third Writing Project site to partner with Poetry Inside Out.
This was not, however, the first collaboration between Poetry Inside Out, the San Diego Area Writing Project, and the University of California San Diego. In 2010 the three joined forces on a Spencer Foundation funded project titled “Examination of Poetry Inside Out: A High Expectation Cross-Cultural Literacy Program.” The project’s aim was to examine the academic literacy skills generated by Poetry Inside Out. In addition to the stated goals, the project also introduced us to Susan Minnicks, a San Diego teacher and SDAWP fellow, who is largely responsible for Poetry Inside Out’s return to the greater San Diego area. Together, Susan and I hammered out the details that lead to February’s workshop.
After kicking off the day by translating exiled Chinese poet Huang Xiang’s poem “Du Chang,” the assembled teachers and I dove into the inner workings of the program. We spent time discussing the importance of classroom culture and of carefully considering of the linguistic and cultural background of each student in the class. These considerations help teachers decide which of our more than forty poems to begin with and how to devise a lesson plan tailored to their class.
Poetry Inside Out is built around activities that require and cultivate dialogue, listening, collaboration, and careful consideration of meaning. In addition to developing highly transferrable skills—implementing Poetry Inside Out enhances classroom discussions about history, current events, English, and geography, among many other subjects—over time this new group of teachers will find that the program generates what has been referred to as a community of inquiry. Their students will naturally want to know more, discover more, and experiment more, changing the culture of the classroom and themselves. We’re overjoyed to welcome San Diego to our community!