ME: What did you learn about life by teaching teenagers how to interpret life on paper?
FRANK: I learned to look at and treat students as individuals, to give them choices and let them make decisions to involve them in their own education. I also learned the value of creativity and encouraged it as much as I could. Writing gave me confidence on how to select words to express not just ideas but also feelings that would satisfy me and my audience. My students did not just write for the teacher or for a grade, but for themselves and a wider audience since we all shared our papers for comments and editing. Editing became an important part of our writing process. Students knew the criteria for a piece of writing and could rewrite their papers as many times as it took to meet the criteria. I never put a grade on a paper, just comments. When students met the criteria, they received credit for completing the assignment.
So I would say the life lessons I learned could be these: treat people as individuals; be creative since it helps you to see and enjoy more of life; have confidence and know that with a little more time and work you can reach your goals.
ME: I love it that you wanted us to write for ourselves first, not for the grade or even for you. That’s brilliant. What did you mean by “Eye, I, Aye” and the affirmation “This sings into the eyes.” You wrote these words on my papers and they made me feel like I was a writer!
FRANK: I found those words a long time ago in some professional journal by an author whom I can’t remember. The words impressed me because they summed up the qualities a good poem or piece of writing should express: “Eye.” The poem must appeal to the senses. Its words must create pictures for the reader. “I.” The voice of the writer must come through to the reader. The words the writer chooses must be unmistakably his or hers. “Aye!” When the reader finishes reading the poem or piece of writing, he or she must be able to say, “Yes! This is true. This is just the way it is because your words lead me to conclude that it is true, or that it is new because your words have shown me something I already knew, but differently.”
This “Sings into the eyes.” I also found those words a long time ago in the title of a collection of poems by Arnold Adoff. Those words showed me that a successful poem must first appeal to the senses, and then the emotions. That became another criteria in my class, that poems should make pictures for the reader, and touch the heart. When I first read Susan’s Oatmeal Story,” it made me smile. Her story made pictures for me, and touched my heart. And her writing still “sings into my eyes” and touches my heart.
ME: MY eyes are singing in the rain right now. I am undone. These are words we must contemplate today, I think. I know I must. We stop for now. More on Friday.