Last month, I taught my distance learning first graders a unit on writing poetry. When thinking about where to begin, I went back to my roots, where I really learned about poetry myself. Over ten years ago, when I was a third grade teacher, Awakening the Heart by Georgia Heard was a life changing book for me as a teacher and a writer. Ultimately, I wanted my first graders to begin living like poets, noticing the world around them.
Somewhere in the middle of the writing unit with my students, my friend and colleague texted me a picture of this poem:
It was from Georgia Heard’s new collection of poetry called My Thoughts are Clouds: Poems for Mindfulness. My friend said that the poem reminded her of my own first grade daughter, Adi, who often has trouble settling down and falling asleep at night. The poem was spot on and I knew I needed to add this book to my collection. It did not disappoint.
Not only were there poems to support all of the big goals I had for my first graders, they also offered a mindful lens that I found so refreshing and also helpful in layering in additional skills and strategies for my own kids as well as the students in my class.
For example, the poem, “Open Your Eyes,” was perfect for illustrating the way that poets pay attention to the world, noticing details that others might miss and seeing the world in fresh new ways.
“Empowering Mantra Haikus,” came in handy when I introduced the Haiku structure to my students. It also helped our class reflect on some mantras that we have as a class, including “We can do hard things,” “Be flexible,” and “We care about each other here.”
And finally, “Cultivate Tenderness,” spoke to me on so many levels in this year full of obstacles and challenges. Not only did this poem help me to illustrate ways to look on the bright side and find the good when working with children, it also reminded me to pause and reflect on the tender moments this year has provided.
So, whether you’re in the midst of celebrating poetry this month or just looking for ways to layer in mindful moments with your students, My Thoughts Are Clouds is full of lovely poems and mindfulness strategies for students of all ages.