I loved my creative writing classes in high school, but never really developed an appreciation for poetry. The meaning and intent, which seemed clear to others, was lost upon me. This didn’t change much, as I moved forward professionally. After all, most roads to tenure aren’t all always paved with poetry & prose.
What power can poetry wield in delivering professional development and learning?
It wasn’t until a few years ago, when I was participating in my first Center for Courage and Renewal retreat, that I found myself reading poetry, writing poetry/prose, and developing an appreciation for its power.
As an adult learner, I found that the poems helped me gain greater insight on the topics being discussed. I also came to understand the use of poetry as an andragogical strategy – one that Parker J. Palmer (@parkerjpalmer) refers to as a “third thing.”
It is in using a “third thing” that leads to insight and change in practice.
According to Parker, the third thing can be a poem, but it can also be an image, a quote, a piece of music, or even a story. He further explains that the third thing is a critical component of opening up learners, helping them to feel safe, and creating opportunities to explore critical issues more deeply.
True community in any context, he states, requires a transcendent third thing that holds both me and thee accountable to something beyond ourselves. The presence of the ‘third thing’ in a subject-centered place is ‘so real, so vivid, so vocal, that it can hold teachers and students alike accountable for what they say and do.’ (Smith, 2005)
Incorporating poetry (and other third things) has changed the way I deliver PD.
So, while I’m certainly not a poet, I’ve begun to successfully incorporate poetry into the professional development I offer. Here are a few examples of how I’ve used the third thing of poetry to support deeper learning, reflection, and discussion:
- Incorporated reading a poem during transitions (e.g., between small group work and large group discussion) to allow for self-reflection before shifting gears.
- Used a poem at the end of a training day (i.e., right before an action-planning activity) as a means of keeping what matters most in the forefront of participants’ minds.
- Conducted contemplative writing activities by encouraging participants to write poetry/prose based upon quotes and/or images provided.
Your challenge…aim to include poetry and pose in your next professional development and learning offering.
I’m also fortunate to have a number of colleagues/friends who just happen to write poetry. With their permission, I’m providing you links to some of their poetry, and invite you to incorporate the poems into your own work – as third things.
I’ve also provided their bios, twitter handles, and links to their websites. I encourage you to learn more about other PD products they have created, and training and speaking services they provide.
Life is Good
by Mayra Porrata, M.Ed (@mayraporrata)
Mayra is an educator, speaker, writer, publisher and social entrepreneur specializing in social-emotional health education and social-emotional learning (SEL), as well as spiritual health education and promotion. She is the author of five children’s books that promote social-emotional and overall human health. On any given day you can find her creating educational leadership and social-emotional learning tools and interventions for schools, work-sites, and agencies.
Since 2007, Mayra has served as a faculty member at Kent State University’s School of Health Sciences. She teaches courses in community health education and works to train future health educators for work in community, school and organizational settings.
by Janice Fialka, LMSW, ACSW (@
Janice is a nationally-recognized lecturer, author, and advocate on issues related to disability, parent-professional partnerships, inclusion, raising a child with disabilities, sibling issues, and post-secondary education. Janice is also a parent, poet, a compelling storyteller, and an award-winning advocate for families and persons with disabilities.
Janice conducts workshops for schools, human service organizations, and parent and advocacy groups. In her primary keynote address and trainings, “The Dance of Partnership: Why do my feet hurt? Strengthening the Parent-Professional Partnership“ she reflects with sensitivity, humor, and compassion on the challenges and possibilities facing parents and professionals as they seek to build successful working relationships.
I’m excited to hear about the “third things” you have used in your work, and invite you to use the poems provided here, as you deliver professional development training and coaching.
If you found today’s information to be helpful, please share with others by using the social media icons at the top of this post! Lastly, be sure to come on over to the Facebook and share your favorite poem!
Smith, M. K. (2005). ‘Parker J. Palmer: community, knowing and spirituality in education’, the encyclopaedia of informal education.[http://infed.org/mobi/parker-j-palmer-community-knowing-and-spirituality-in-education/. Retrieved: May 31, 2015].
PS….here are a few of my favorite poems and additional resources:
- The Rhythm of Trueness: A Poetic Journey for the Leader Within
By Jeff Brunson
- The Way Under the Way by Mark Nepo
- To Be of Use by Marge Piercy (blog post by Parker Palmer)
- You Were Made for This by Clarissa Pinkola Estes (2008)
- Teaching with Heart: Poetry that Speaks to the Courage to Teach by Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner, editors
- Teaching with Fire: Poetry that Sustains the Courage to Teach by Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner, editors
- Leading from Within: Poetry that Sustains the Courage to Lead by Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner, editors
- Poems written by those with autism and/or their caregivers