Students, Wick teach poetry in local schools

Heather Bing

Lindsey Ramdin loves writing. She loves sharing her writing. And she has always been interested in poetry.

During her Introduction to Creative Writing course, she discovered another poetry course that would not only offer her the opportunity to write creatively, but to teach that passion to others.

The course Teaching Poetry in the Schools is offered through the English department and allows Kent State students to work with students in grades three through 12 through interactive poetry and creative writing workshops.

The semester work culminates in a final event, ‘Giving Voice,’ which allows the students to present their work by incorporating poems and music into a final product.

Ramdin, a sophomore English major, said the structure of the class and the work she has done throughout the semester have provided her with a new outlook on poetry.

“I’ve always been interested in it, but now not so much the writing part,” she said. “I’m more interested in teaching it, especially to younger kids.”

Ramdin works with third grade students at Davey Elementary School and juniors at Maplewood Career Center. She chose students in opposite age groups in order to see which she preferred teaching.

The course, instructed by David Hassler, is set up in two parts. Once a week the class meets and Hassler demonstrates writing prompts while focusing on the students’ work. The students then take those lessons and create sessions appropriate for the classrooms they work in.

“I mock his teaching style because it has helped me so much, and it hasn’t let me down yet,” Ramdin said. “I pick a poem that David gives us as a model, and I think of questions to ask the students about how they could make the poem their own.

“Normally half way through the semester with other classes I start getting bored. In David’s class, it’s like two courses in one.”

Ramdin has been looking over her students’ poems and will make suggestions to Hassler about the poems she would like her students to perform at ‘Giving Voice.’ She said she looks for poems that are full of creativity and description.

“I hope that my students will realize that what they write really is good,” she said. “A lot of them have doubts, but everything they produce has been great. I hope they see how much it’s impacted me and; after ‘Giving Voice,’ how much their words can impact other people as well.”

Junior English major Ryan Motika works with fourth and seventh grade students at Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts and seniors at Maplewood Career Center. He teaches all of his classes with other students from Hassler’s class and said he takes turns leading the discussions and assisting.

Although he sometimes follows Hassler’s example of sharing a poem, doing board work, creating a group poem and then working on individual poems, his high school students would usually rather take the poem and go.

“I’ve taught my own poem, and I took one my girlfriend wrote for me and taught that too,” Motika said. “The high school students are always asking when we’re coming back, and they wanted Josh and me to go to their school dance.”

Motika has looked over his students’ work in order to make suggestions for ‘Giving Voice’ as well, but different poems have stood out. He said it’s going to be hard picking which ones he would like them to present.

The greatest part about this class is the connection you make with the students, Motika said.

“We walk in the classroom and they’re like ‘The poets are here!'” he said. “If they have a good time with it, that makes me happy. This is what I want to do.”

Hassler, program and outreach director for the Wick Poetry Center, said the class evolved from a one credit, two-week special topic course offered in the spring of 2001, to become a three credit, semester-long course the following year that has been offered ever since.

“I hope my college students are able to convey their own passion for poetry and creative writing to the students they teach,” Hassler said. “In many cases, these college students can be important role models for the local schools.”

Hassler said the impact of being a role model develops through a relationship between the students while working on the poetry. Watching that process is one of the inspirations behind the class.

“I love teaching this class because I have seen over and over again how hungry Kent State students are to engage in meaningful work within the community, to share their talents and enthusiasm,” Hassler said. “It’s exciting to see how they grow in response to the responsibility they are given in local classrooms. They’ve spent their lives being students, but now, through the conversation of poetry, become teachers, and as teachers, gain valuable new insights and have a positive influence on their students’ lives.”

Contact College of Arts and Sciences reporter Heather Bing at [email protected].