25 November 2015

Grateful for Creativity, Life, and Hope

I remember fondly listening to Elizabeth Alexander read her poem "Praise Song for the Day" at President Obama's first inauguration. Newly out of the classroom, I watched with a colleague from a television at Capital Plaza Tower in Frankfort. After the hearing the poem, my colleague, also a former teacher, turned to me and said "can't you just imagine several days worth of lessons from that poem"? Yes. I said. I could imagine students engaging in conversations about the poem and the historic day. You see, when we study poetry and art we connect our experiences to universal ideas. Art offers us a way to express ourselves freely. Art offers hope and life.

The same year Elizabeth Alexander read her poem for the inauguration, I met her here in Lexington, Kentucky at the Kentucky Women Writers Conference. She participated in a conversation with other women writers and then read her poems for us at a keynote session. All these memories came back to me when I recently read her memoir The Light of the World. My review posted on the Cake and Whiskey blog today.

In addition to appreciating Alexander's beautiful language, free-expression, and artistry, regular readers of my blog will understand I also appreciated Alexander's mention of her late husband's dream of opening a school..."a school about self-expression...it will be great seeds for healing and peace." I, too, dream of opening a school, a school where we explore creativity and students' interests, a school that offers hope for inequitable situations in life. I also dream of public schools reimagining their approach and offering all students equal learning opportunities.

Since I learned recently that the Ford Foundation named Elizabeth Alexander as director of their Creativity and Free Expression program, I decided to check out other work happening at the Ford Foundation and was pleasantly surprised to see that they also seek creative ways to target drivers of inequality and improve the world. It's refreshing to see a large organization with a focus on improving humanity. In addition to their program for creativity and expression, they also have programs for youth opportunity and learning.

Equity. Social Justice. Creativity. Self-Expression. Learning.

If large foundations can embrace these ideas, shouldn't we embrace them in our schools, too?