Listen now (13 min) | Donney talks about how the work of the late poet, Etheridge Knight inspired Black boys in Baton Rouge public schools to embrace poetry in a manner they never did before. The first time I stepped into a classroom as a teaching artist was right at 15 years ago. After a half-decade as a performance poet and a few years as a substitute teacher, I was afforded the opportunity to teach the art of spoken word poetry to middle and high school students via the nonprofit I was working for at the time. The majority of my first year as a teaching artist was spent conducting writing workshops in Baton Rouge public schools. The pedagogical approach of the organization I worked for was to work in partnership with classroom teachers and guide their students in writing original poems in response to literary devices and forms they discovered in model texts we brought to the classroom. Oftentimes when the classroom teacher would inform the students that there was a ‘special guest’ that day to lead them in a poetry lesson, a collection of sighs and groans would fill the room.
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