The Cat in the Cream was packed on Monday night, as middle schoolers, family members and Oberlin students gathered to hear Langston Middle School students read poetry from anthologies of their work. The subject matter ran the gamut, touching on times they felt powerful, people that are important to them, advice they don’t like to hear, and their relationships with their hometowns, among other sources of inspiration.
This work came out of seven-day residencies in the middle school Language Arts classes, taught by college students through the Writers in the Schools Program. This program, directed by Visiting Assistant Professor in Creative Writing Lynn Powell, is the focus of her Teaching Imaginative Writing course. College students compiled the culminating anthologies of middle school poetry, will be on shelves at the school and the Oberlin Public Library.
“I preach to my Oberlin students that to teach well you must prepare yourself as well as you can, and then go have an authentic conversation with your students,” Powell wrote in an email to the Review. “Staying curious and learning together is what keeps both teaching and poetry alive.”
College third-year Elmo Tumbokon participated in the class last year, and taught again as a practicum this fall.
“If you’ve heard the poems that eighth-graders read, it’s literally the most profound thing in the world,” said Tumbokon. “And [to help] kids have access to poetry over and over again, and all I have to do is volunteer my time. … It means the world to me.”
Another student teacher, College fourth-year Jack McMillin, participated in WITS when he was a student at Langston Middle School. In his final year at the College, he’s come full circle with the program.
“As a middle school student, the program was such a joy because it allowed me to think imaginatively in a school setting,” McMillin wrote in an email to the Review. “For me, it’s early chances like the poetry [residency] where I could play around and experiment with my voice that made writing a liberating world, and the more this expanded during my time at Oberlin, the more I wanted to pursue creative writing.”