Tuesday, May 24, 2016

School Visit Spotlight: On Young Poets & the Culture of Listening at Vestavia Elementary Central

Vestavia Elementary Central is located here in Birmingham, less than 30 minutes from my home.

I love local visits because it shows the kids that poets and authors live right in their neighborhoods, and in fact, THEY can be poets and authors, too!

When I arrived at the library, I was greeted by Elizabeth Hester, whom I was so pleased to finally work with! Our paths have crossed a bunch of times, and this was my first time to visit her school. Yay!

I was also greeted by a bulletin board of student poems -- poems about birthdays and birds and hermit crabs and melons and whales and crickets... lots of great writing going on at Vestavia Central!

But the thing that struck me most about these students was the way they LISTENED. Not just to me, but to one another. When, during the writing workshop, a student read aloud his or her work, and I asked, "what stands out to you about the poem?" or "what words or images do you recall?" or "any more feedback?" there were always lots of hands, and lots of very precise comments. And, I have learned, this is something that is taught. That comes with practice. At Vestavia Elementary Central, they have created a Culture of Listening. I love it!

I also love how these librarians and teachers put on a luncheon. Behold the beauty of this spread:

How lucky was I to lunch with such thoughtful, smart educators? And YUM.

Another highlight of my visit was meeting BJ, who works in the school cafeteria, and whose mother is a quilter from Gee's Bend! I was delighted to sign a copy of LEAVING GEE'S BEND for her.

Look how quietly and diligently these young poets are working...

And here are some poems!

I love the idea of "crickets spread[ing] the rumor of sadness and change."

I love the specificity in these titles: not just "Hermit Crab"... "Hermit Crab on the Stairs.
Not just "The Dog"... "The Dog in the Lake."

This one completely stole my heart because of that "big"
on the last line all by itself!


  1. A Culture of Listening warms my heart! Good food, good friends, good poems :-)

  2. Love this! Thank you for visiting, Irene!


Your thoughts?