National Writing Project

Powerful Poetic Inquiry, A Sample Chapter from Writing and Teaching to Change the World

Date: March 1, 2014

Summary: Stephanie Jones' Writing and Teaching to Change the World: Connecting With Our Most Vulnerable Students is a collection of stories from several different teachers who organize a teacher inquiry community (TIC) and decide to study one student in each of their classes who they think is vulnerable in some way.

 

Excerpt from Chapter

I still don't understand why he chose to engage me the way he did. After all, to look at us from the outside, we are clearly different people. He is what some might call a "streetwise," African American young person with an attitude that can best be described as fierce bravado. I am a reserved, even shy, European American woman teacher. He is a teenager. I am middle aged.

Yet his purposeful posture was an invitation, something like an unspoken Game On choosing of me. The ball was in my court. Would I choose him back? Ruth Behar (2008) wrote, "The most charged intellectual insights occur precisely when one's ethnographic work and one's life crash into each other in a head-on collision" (p. 63). Ray had certainly captured my attention as I was cultivating my ethnographic eyes, ears, and sensibilities. He constantly acted out in my language arts classroom and didn't seem bothered by the consequences (silent lunch and detention) I administered for his actions—at first protecting my position as teacher-authority in the classroom. I remember thinking at the time what we had discussed in our Red Clay Teacher Inquiry Community: If I could only make sense of what was going on with Ray, I'd somehow be a better teacher. I wasn't expecting a head-on collision, but that is precisely what I got—and the tiny details from my classroom began accumulating on my table from which poetry would grow."

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