How a Poem Changed a Teacher's Career

Kara Corridan

I'll be frank: The one part of Storyworks Jr. that gets the most mixed feedback is our poetry. For every teacher who tells us how grateful she is that we include poems in each issue, another tells us it's the part of Storyworks Jr. she uses the least. But we continue to include poems because we believe in their ability to present language and ideas in unique ways, and to help children explore their own voices and emotions. And then every once in a while we learn of the impact a particular poem has had on students, and we know we're on the right path. Here's one such story that deeply moved us.

"Same Hands," the poem we feature in the March/April 2017 issue of Storyworks Jr. as part of a trio of texts about how animals are helped—and hurt—by humans, originally appeared in Storyworks in 2012. Not long ago, I happened to be Googling this poem and came across a teacher's blog post about it. Angie Nesbit of Illinois had written about how she'd taught this poem to her Storyworks students, and asked them to model the poem and create their own. "What happened after this assignment," she wrote, "no teacher could have planned." In her words:

"A student wrote a poem about bullies of the present, and 10 years later. When reading the poem, you could hear a pin drop in the classroom, and there was silence once the poem was over. Throughout the day, I read the poem to all my classes, and it had the same result... silence. I decided I would write back to this student as if I was the bully, and then another class wrote back 10 years later.

I must say, this was one of the most exciting moments in my teaching career, to see how students took this to heart."

Here is the first student's poem (to get the most out of it, be sure to first read "Same Hands"):

And here is the version written by Ms. Nesbit and her class:

We are so gratified to know that a poem that had this kind of influence on students is now being shared with our Storyworks Jr. readers. Tell us: What poem has made a difference in your life, or your classroom?


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