Discipline, Courage and a Piece of Paper

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By Jamie Miles

This February I approached Morgan County’s Alternative Education Program (AEP) Director, Greg Thompson about leading a creative writing workshop with Crossroads students. At the time, I wasn’t sure what avenue the class would take. Then by chance, I came across the Pongo Writing Method online. Using Pongo’s structured poetry prompts, students find it easier to dive into the creative process of thinking about and expressing emotion.

When asked about general misconceptions of AEP students Thompson shared, “A lot of people think these are bad kids. They are not. For the most part, they are good kids — who have a lot going for them – who made some bad decisions.”  The goal of the AEP is to help students see “there are a lot of opportunities for them in life – whatever they want to accomplish.”

Finishing up her first year as an AEP instructor, Erin Spinks was instrumental to the success of workshop. A tireless cheerleader in the classroom, she believes in encouraging the teens to share on paper. “You learn more about them on a personal level.” She continued, “Everyone walks around with some kind of wall up – this is a way of being real.”

The young poets named their group Crossroads.With.Attitude. They created a blog showcasing their work. The class studied the Spoken Word Movement and viewed teen poetry slams. Sessions examined metaphors and similes. How they bring the creative product alive for reader – and writer.

In the short three months we shared, I witnessed the awakening of each voice, each unique method of expression. I dream one day of seeing @LoudYoungPoets competing at a national youth poetry slam.  As we discussed many times in class – any dream has wings with hard work, discipline, courage — and a piece of paper.

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