Teaching and Learning Haiku in Community and Classroom: Stories, Challenges, Adventures
Do you teach haiku? In a classroom? An arts foundation? Community education? We want to hear about it. Want some new ideas? A place to vet an old idea before you try it “live”? Community support? How We Haiku — Teaching Stories is a monthly feature debuting today wherein we will share the many diverse and interesting ways you bring our favorite genre to your audience. Each month Brad Bennett and Jeannie Martin, co-chairs of The Haiku Foundation Education Committee, will host your stories of how you make haiku come alive for your students, and create an environment where educators can discuss the many challenges faced in bringing a fuller sense of haiku to a culture that knows little more than the stereotypes. Contact us to share your teaching stories, to ask your questions, and to find fellowship with your peers and the rest of the haiku community.
“We cannot teach a person directly, we can only facilitate his or her learning.”
— Carl Rogers
We welcome your comments (scroll down to the bottom of the page). And don’t forget about all the other fine education resources the Foundation has to offer.
Our first column, “Teaching Haiku in a Nursing Home”, comes from THF Education Co-Chair Jeannie Martin.
Teaching Haiku in a Nursing Home
As a sort of merger of my geriatric social work and my love of haiku, I have begun to bring haiku into nursing homes. This is daunting at best, but I love doing it and want to continue through increasing my haiku teaching skills in this somewhat chaotic and not completely friendly atmosphere. Nursing home staff, as we know, are overworked, underpaid, and often not very appreciated by the higher ups. So the staff too have become potential recipients of haiku as they certainly need the calm and clarity that a good poem can render.
In addition, the nursing home environment is usually (but not always) based on the medical model so there is a definite sense of entering a hospital-like environment complete with heat, smell and winding, impersonal corridors.
Over the past few year I have worked out a model of teaching in a nursing home setting, and would love any comments or suggestions you may have:
I call ahead of course to remind the activities coordinator of my arrival, all the time acting quite positive and upbeat. I figure they are already skeptical (what is this haiku thing?) so I try to put on a positive tone — this will be fun!
When I arrive, I make sure that the residents are seated in a circle. I set up my flip chart and easel, find my markers, and make sure my prompts are ready to go. I also work on modulating my voice as I have to speak loudly for those with hearing loss, but do not want to sound like I am yelling. I walk around the circle and personally greet each person.
Usually we have about an hour.
I begin by briefly introducing myself and haiku, and what we will be covering during our time together. I remind myself that most of the people in the room are in the present moment, and that we are doing something that evokes beauty and memory and makes the day a better day for them.
We then go around and I ask each person to share one thing about the present season that they enjoy. I do not ask names, as this can be uncomfortable. Name are not important.
I pass around prompts to evoke memory and images they enjoy and are drawn to. Examples are flowers, seashells, stones, and other items. Sometimes I also bring in photographs of nature scenes, taken from old calendars.
Then I with my newsprint put up a few easy to understand and hopefully appealing haiku. We read these together and from there create group poems that I write down on the newsprint. As we write these poems together I ask for stories or recollections based on the poems. These are usually seasonal: trips to the beach, customs during holidays, favorite places they have known and treasured. As we end the session I write each poem on a 8½ x 11 inch sheet of paper to give to the activities director to post or to put in the nursing home newsletter. It is my hope that these poems will find a home there, to be used for art projects, story telling, or other forms of expression. Sometimes that is true, and sometimes not, but I do find that haiku is something that the residents like, find delight in, and once again points to the deep engagement we all have with the natural world.
I have two questions:
How can I make this more meaningful and engaging?
How can I do this without exhausting myself?
— Jeannie Martin