For many of you, Poetry & Prose is a love/hate relationship while for some it may just be one of those two components. My desire is that, as your child(ren) progress through the Lower School, you and they gain a greater appreciation not only for poetry and great literature, but also for the benefits of memorizing the piece you select. So imagine my excitement when, shortly after sending out information about the 2016-17 Poetry & Prose contest, I see an article titled “Benefits of Memorizing Poetry”! Allow me to share some reflections from this article along with their alignment to Trinity’s classical, Christian approach to education.
“Research has shown that introducing poetry to children at earlier ages, and encouraging them to memorize it, has significant benefits.” Among them are:
- An increased appreciation for a wondrous art form including building an intrinsic appreciation for rhythm and melody by the manipulation of words and syllables
- This is the tuning of student’s hearts towards beauty
- This also helps with the foundation of logic and rhetoric by the manipulation of words to impact emotions and meaning
- Encouraging them to become more analytical and inquisitive by nature
- Instilling in students the desire to identify truth
- Increasing their vocabulary, often with more eloquent words and phrasing, that also improves their writing when they’re older, both from an increased vocabulary but also from more experience with beautiful manipulation of words and sounds
- Putting together their heart’s tuning towards beauty along with their logic to allow for beautiful and persuasive rhetoric
- Helping students as they are experiencing a wider range of emotions to read poetic representations of a variety of emotions
Poetry and Prose is not about one more thing we ask of students nor is it about the competition; Poetry & Prose is about training students within a classical model to be students who can shape and impact the world. The process followed within this competition helps us to achieve those end results with our graduates. If you have ever attended the finals of Poetry & Prose, you can understand more clearly the benefits of this process. Yes, not every student will perform as precisely as those in the final round; however, every student can gain the above outcomes by participating fully in this contest and then apply those skills to their passion and talents. As I continue to hear stories from Trinity graduates, both from my role at Trinity as well as my personal connection through friends of my wife (Trinity graduate of the class of 2005), I continue to be amazed at how all of them are confident, poised, and well-spoken, regardless of the setting. Some students will be the “on the stage” rhetorical speaker while others will be the “behind the scenes” encourager or persuader – the world, and the Church, need both.
So if all of the benefits above come from the process, why does it have to be a competition? There are several positives from the competition that make it worthwhile to complete in this format:
- Truly, it is a competition against yourself. Each student should desire to do their best each year and to be able to look back and see improvement and growth. Each teacher will give feedback to a student about areas they can improve and, regardless of whether they advance to the next round, that can be an area of focus for a student for future presentations and the following year’s Poetry & Prose.
- The competition allows for those who do make it beyond the first round to experience the excitement of success. There are some students who this is a passion of theirs and they frequently advance to at least the second round; however, every year, there are students who may surprise even themselves by how well they perform. Or for one student, they may struggle in other areas but this is a skill they have and their chance to shine amongst their peers. Everything should not be a competition but there should be various times throughout the year for students to demonstrate their specific skills and to be recognized for that skill/performance.
- The added pressure of competition is good for students. The world is competitive and full of various challenges and we want to partner with you and your child to help guide your student through how to handle that stress in a healthy way. Ideally, every student would handle the pressure extremely well, but if they don’t, what environment is more loving and supportive than the staff at Trinity working alongside you and your child during this process?
- 1 Corinthians 12 comes to mind with a major heart of mine for the Lower School. Students who perform well can learn how to win humbly and those who do not advance (or advance but do not win) can learn how to lose graciously. One of my goals is to instill a culture in the Lower School where one student’s success does not detract from another student’s success, although that culture will require significant reinforcement at home. This culture would lead to a mindset where a student realizes that one person will win Poetry & Prose but that does not detract from their growth in Poetry & Prose or their skills and talents elsewhere, whether they’re recognized in a contest or not. A student can celebrate the success of their peers because they know their own personal successes and ultimately recognize that their identity and self-worth comes from being a beloved child of God, who made them in His image. We have unity through our diverse talents and skills, not despite our diverse talents and skills.