Pop Quiz: Caroline Kennedy

On great teaching, the power of poetry, and the gifts she gave her mother.

 

by Gary Drevitch

Copyright © 2006 Scholastic Inc.

Scholastic INSTRUCTOR Magazine January/February 2006

 

What is your favorite school memory?

I’m lefthanded, and handwriting was very hard for me. In fourth grade I got the penmanship prize. It was so unexpected. It made me realize that if I worked hard I could succeed. I still remember the prize was a paperback book about a cocker spaniel.

Your new book is a collection of poems for children. What inspired you?

Poetry was an important part of my life growing up. Instead of buying presents for my mother, we had to pick out poems for her. My brother and I complained about it, but we both read a lot of poems we wouldn’t have. The first lines that I memorized were ‘First Fig’ and ‘Second Fig’ by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

What can poetry do for a classroom?

Younger children really connect with poems because they're at an age when they’re exploring the world through rhythm, language, and rhyme. The teachers I know say it can really unite a class.

I think older kids see poetry and lyrics as a way of expressing their own feelings and struggles. If teachers can harness that energy, it can really carry over into other academic subjects.

What is the biggest challenge for teachers?

Classes with so many kids in them, and at such different levels. It is a challenging undertaking and I’m constantly impressed by the way teachers do it.

What is on your education wish list?

Teachers and students really need support from the outside. It’s a big job and they’re doing their part, so we - parents, friends, neighbors, and local businesses - all need to do ours.