Friday, June 07, 2013

Sharing poetry in Bali (Part 2)

playing soccer in the courtyard

While I was in Bali for the IBBY conference, I also had the opportunity to visit a small school-- always an eye-opening experience. This was a school that served a population of some 40 children, most of them with special needs (learning disabilities, cerebral palsy, autism, etc.). The headmaster picked me up and drove me out and I toured the tiny building with its half dozen small un-airconditioned rooms with small homemade wooden chairs and tables.
moms hanging out with toddlers
the school library and library volunteer
 Moms sat outside in the open area and were welcome there. Children played-- some babies and toddlers there with their mothers. It was a relaxed and happy environment. I went into each room and smiled and chatted-- including a tiny library with a few shelves of paperback books and a small crate of toys.

Most of my time was spent in a small classroom with the oldest kids-- about a dozen-- working alongside their regular teacher-- she told me she was a former hotel worker whose English was good, so she volunteered to help out at the school. She was a natural and had a real knack in taking every moment and making it a language learning lesson.
practicing English words
a boy with autism adept on his notebook computer

I brought a pile of poetry books to share (and donate) and a copy of The Poetry Friday Anthology (or course). Although their knowledge of English was extremely limited, I did share the first stanzas of several poems-- as their teacher helped translate each key word. I shared:

(K-1) "Happy Song for the First Day of School" by Patricia Hubbell
It's my

(K-14) "Mrs. Betty" by Rebecca Kai Dotlich
Knock, knock!
Who's there?
It's Mrs. Betty!
She brought us a pot
of homemade

(One bright little girl recognized the "knock, knock" formula for jokes and pointed that out to me!)

(K-27) "Animal Talk" by Charles Ghigna
Ducks quack
Doves coo
Dogs bark
Cows moo

(They loved making the animal noises for this poem!)

Then we sang a variety of songs in English that were familiar to them and I joined right in. Plus, I chatted at length with the kids, answering questions and asking them questions.
this same boy thought of using his computer to take our photo while the teacher used my camera
her English was amazing!
The little girl who knew the "knock, knock" formula was quite adept with English and eager to converse-- she told me about TV programs she had watched about Sasquatch, ghosts, and zombies! The kids were eager to show off and were high energy!

a classroom for the younger children
What a privilege to spend a few hours with them and see the dedication of the staff and the eagerness of kids to learn new things. It's a good reminder of the heart of teaching-- caring about kids and helping them learn.

P.S. Two days later I came down with a bad cold-- just a little sampling of what teachers face every day in working with children! I remember getting sick at the beginning of every school year when I was a classroom teacher, as I built up my immunities for the year. Looks like that's another universal part of teaching!


Janet Wong said...

Poetry was the perfect genre to use with these kids. Sounds like you made some lifelong memories for them and their teachers . . . and yourself, too!

Irene Latham said...

Wow, Sylvia, how inspiring to spend time with these kids. Poetry has the power to break all sorts of barriers, doesn't it? Thank you for sharing, and hope you are feeling better! xo

Mary Lee said...

Thanks for this peek into a classroom across the world. So different from ours...and so alike. Right down to the germs! My students gave me a germy end-of-the-year cold to start my summer with! Hope you're feeling better. I am. Being able to rest it away rather than spending hours writing sub plans or teaching through it is an amazing curative!

Sylvia Vardell said...

Hi, friends-- it was quite a memorable visit and a good reminder of how poetry and song can cross barriers. Sorry to hear you caught a bug from YOUR kids, Mary Lee! Hope we all feel better soon! Hugs, all, Sylvia

Joyce Ray said...

Sylvia, I loved this sharing of your experience with children in Bali. I visit Nepal soon, and I am looking forward to interacting with students. Thanks for your idea of sharing just bits of poems!

skanny17 said...

Hi Sylvia,
I have been following your Bali adventures and visit. How wonderful for you to be able to travel there and how lucky for the children in the school to get to meet you and share poetry. It is eye-opening to see the differences (and similarities...knock knock jokes!). I love how it is warm and informal with the moms and siblings around. So glad you brought them books. I am sure they will remember the visit from the lovely poetry teacher from America!
Janet F.

Charles Waters said...

Okay this made my heart soar. What a great blog posts. Awesome kids and teachers. We're all more alike than we are different. Your words highlight this truth.