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edu180atl: shelley paul 3.2.2012

It was like being struck by lightning or lit on fire.

Today I am in Seattle for the NAIS conference. It’s still early — 10 AM. Today I woke up thinking about what I learned yesterday: I’m not done with it. Hardly started. Today I am an assignment-bender.

Yesterday, at the closing session, poet Sarah Kay talked about breakthroughs that lead us to become who we are. She shared her journey into spoken-word poetry — how she discovered, serendipitously, at 14 the power of performing, of connecting to an audience, of having her voice heard and understood. She said it was like “being struck by lightning or lit on fire.”

Sarah said kids are pre-programmed for such “accidental” breakthroughs — the miraculous learning and exploration that come from being curious and open, from having “new eyes;” that as adults, we know that most breakthroughs are “intentional” — coming from hard work and persistence. She asked that we as educators, help create a “balance between breakthroughs” for our learners. To help them remain open, and to remain open ourselves, to possibility.

Through her Project VOICE initiative, Sarah now works with students all over the world, teaching them to “tell their own stories in their own voices and in their own way.” She closed her talk with a poem about her elementary school principal, her “model” for what an educator should and can be. It left me breathless.

Today I am still learning, from poetry, from breakthroughs, from Sarah Kay.


Shelley Paul (@lottascales) is a poet, instructional designer, curious learner and fan of libraries. She works at Woodward Academy.


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