Poet in residence Athena Edmonds on her semester at Everett High School

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It was my privilege to teach as poet in residence at Everett High School for the Spring 2018 semester. My personal goal for this pilot program was to create a safe space for students to write poetry. Through poetry, students develop their sense of self and social awareness; both important aspects of social emotional learning. Poetry created a space where almost every student could share their personal story, many of which their teachers and classmates had not heard before.

What it feels like to be a black girl even in a school where 74% of the student population is non-white:

“Black girls are undesired because they
“Too loud”, too “ghetto” or “too ratchet”
But across the street the whites and
Latinas are praised for all that”

What it feels like to not only experience poverty, but also to experience others looking down at your poverty, even in a school where 44% of students are economically disadvantaged:

“I am from that little tin roof over 15 heads”
… from disheveled clothes and little to eat
… poverty under the smiles…
the flip flops from the flea market that are so worn out
It almost seems like my home is another’s nightmare”

What it feels like to be a possibly undocumented student and an English Language Learner:

“My days are long
I stay in the house
Mama scared
police will take me”

In every class, one third of the time was spent with me teaching, one third with students writing, and the last portion with students sharing. While I am proud of my students’ writing, I am even more proud that almost every student shared during each class period. 20% of students at Everett High School are English Language Learners and 61% are non-native English speakers, which makes their commitment to sharing even more impressive. Reading their poems aloud fostered a sense of community and hopefully taught them to believe that if they have the courage to speak up, others will listen.

I hope I have the opportunity to bring the poet in residence program to another high school!