"That tree died for you, so don’t you cheat the paper" -Dwight (Dee Blac


When my friend and fellow poet said those words to me, there was some essence that lived beyond him before and after he ascended.

I am a Teacher’s Assistant at the Venice Skills Center (Adult Ed. Dept.) working towards my degree to become a teacher. Rosalie Holloway, my mentor, wanted to see my teaching skills so she assigned a Teacher Directed workshop. She instructed me to teach the students how to interpret poetry and write their own poems using comprehensive poetry tools. This portion of the English Expository Composition course counted as 16-20% of the course.

On March 25th, 2015 a group of brave students from the Venice Skills Center decided to personify their feelings by connecting with trees. These students I named the Poet Tree Choir gave true meaning to Dee Black’s words.

First the students embodied the quote from Dee Black.

“That tree died for you, so don’t you cheat the paper"

After choosing a picture of a tree they were told to write two six word memoirs about something that no one else knew. Then the students were instructed to write 10-15 lines of free verse about the tree they had chosen. Once the poems were written they were asked to design and make a paper bag scrapbook in which to publish their poems.

During the poem writing and book designing sessions I informed them that there would be a culminating performance with musical accompaniment. Students were nervous, some even dropped out and took the other option of writing a four paragraph essay about a poem they would never be interested in reading or even trying to interpret. This was an extremely high expectation for some whom had never read a poem, much less written poem or heard a poem performed.

However Artistry prevailed and the majority of the students remained. We all knew that nothing like this had ever occured in the Rotunda during an Adult Ed. learning day. This was the day that the trees learned that we recognize them; the day that we learned that leaves speak with a voice and although the tree was transformed it sang through guitar. Being present at that event was a remarkable experience for the human being; students and audience alike. Every one of my students “got house” after their performance. “We are Groot” to quote the movie “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Kudos to the Poet Tree Choir, June Dlugatch and Christine Johnson for the scrapbook materials donation and Rosalie Holloway for trusting me to teach this class. I am forever grateful for the opportunity.

#poetry #aktoney #readingispoetry #adulted #venice #poems #veniceskillcenter

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