From the Principal: April 2016

I love April. It’s a transition month, so it’s delightfully unpredictable. April suggests that spring is around the corner, but it doesn’t yield to warmer weather easily. It has a habit of reminding us, with one last snowstorm, to be grateful for every temperate day between now and June. April’s tempestuous nature also makes it a fitting month for National Poetry Month, with a sly nod to T.S. Elliot. When better to read and write poetry than on the cusp of spring? Dark winter thoughts mingle with the hope of rebirth, and the tension between the two can yield rich poetic possibilities.  

We take National Poetry Month seriously at Graham and Parks. April is anchored by Poetry Night and our poetry assembly, two events that celebrate poetry, poets, and the poetic nature of childhood. Unlike adults, children often take to poetry quickly. They’re not afraid of language or hung up by the rules and habits of narrative and expository writing. And while the myth of the precocious child poet is just that, children can write poetry that is often beautiful and profound. This week, at poetry night, I wandered from room to room and watched students experiment and take risks with language, while clearly enjoying the freedom poetry allows. Students wrote sensorial poems about teapots and pinecones, found poetry about honor and identity, and haiku about great grey owls.  And when the evening was over, they gathered in the cafeteria to read their work, coffee house style, to an impressed, and sometimes awestruck, audience. 

As a school, we have a responsibility to teach children how to use language as a tool for explanation and analysis, and for good reason. But we’d be doing a disservice to our students if we didn’t also explore the slippery and surprising possibilities of language. And that’s what poetry does; it probes and plays with the limits of our ability to express and even know ourselves in a consciousness mediated by language. This is big work for young minds, but because it’s poetry, it’s also fun work and full of joy. And so, during April, we bring poetry front and center. I encourage you to do the same. Now is the time, before the weather sends us off to lighter and warmer pursuits, to pull your favorite book of poems off the shelf and share it with your children. A lifelong relationship with poetry is a lifelong relationship with the complexities of language and ourselves. And there is no better time than childhood to begin this journey. 


Tony Byers