You have to be vulnerable, you will be afraid, and you just might cry, but the students love it. Princeton High School (PHS) Performance Poetry has started off the year with a successful performance that astonished students, staff and the performers themselves.
Performance Poetry is a one-semester English elective taught by PHS English teacher Cheryl Adams. Students become more comfortable with public speaking while learning how to express themselves and have a successful presentation. This group creates special bonds and becomes a big family. Students that have been majorly affected by this group still come back to it later.
“We have some former graduates who come back and still want to perform their poetry,” said Adams.
The class itself helps individuals and make them become better performers. While this group has its fun times, there are also moments where they must be serious and not afraid to show who they are. These students learn maturity and what it’s like to respect one another.
“Whenever we have a performance, we don’t have to ask the audience to be quiet when someone is performing,” said Adams. “When they are up there, people are amazed because everyone is giving their 100 percent.”
The students respect one another when someone is brave enough to say personal stuff. They are being real with one another and always want to listen to the poems. No one says that they don’t want to perform for audiences and the order varies for each performance.
“I tell someone that they are going last because they are awesome or I tell someone they are going first because they are awesome,” said Adams.
She respects and admires her students all in the same way. Some teachers have even requested to see certain students perform because they knew their story would be deep and intriguing. Since she started to teach this class, Adams has certain “staples” that she repeats each year, for example the Where I Come From poems.
“Sometimes we need to hold on to things if they are good and successful, and something about these poems works so well,” said Adams.
The poems are a convenient way for the students to start the year off by getting used to poetry and performing in front of an audience. The Where I Come From poems help students break away from stereotypes already set in their mind and determine what they want to say.
“Once you find what you really want to say, I’m not going to be able to keep you off the stage,” said Adams.
The students were extremely nervous when told the date they would be performing. However, by nature, people are storytellers who want to talk and share their memories with others.
“This class gives each student their own voice and these skills they learn will help translate into their everyday lives in the future,” said Adams.
Students use this class as a vehicle for self-knowledge. Ms. Adams knows what the kids go through to get their poem to a presentable level and when they perform, she feels like the coach on the sidelines.
“Every student already has the skills they need, but for some, the hardest part was to decide what they wanted to say, and for others they had too much to fit in the time frame given,” said Adams.
Sometimes the students know in their mind what they want to write about but they just can’t figure out how to put it on paper, which is where Ms. Adams comes in. Performing is the easy part, and brainstorming stumps just about everyone. This difficult process is what makes them even more dedicated to expressing themselves. Through this class, students gain better public speaking skills and learn to accept people the way they are.
“It’s cool to be real, academic, and to use poetry to achieve greater levels of self-expression,” said Adams
Being real is what the students do best. It’s all about being able to say what you want, and talk about your life. Students will keep these memories and skills with them forever.