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Poetry for students

Posted on May 26, 2020 by Sunny South News

Coaldale teacher dedicates spoken word piece to his students

By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News

An R.I. Baker teacher has released a spoken word video dedicated to his students.

While You’re Outside of My Classroom -A Letter to My Students, has Michael Willems, a grades 6/7 teacher at R.I. Baker Middle School in Coaldale, addressing his students as he talks about how he misses seeing them but he hopes they are discovering and exploring.

He wanted to dedicate the video to his students because he wanted to let them that despite the stress and grief in the world about the future, they are not alone.

“I wanted to find a way to connect with my students while also sorting out what I was feeling,” said Willems. “Writing poetry is often how I process things and, with the pandemic, there’s a lot to process. How do you tell students that you miss them and I’m sorry you have to go through this and this all feels so very weird? I figured a video would be something that students could connect with.”

Willems had gotten into poetry when he was young, and he used it to help process things. It evolved as he got older, and became an outlet that allows him to “process, consolidate, and explain what’s going on in my head”.

He has taught Spoken Word exploratory classes in the past, he says it’s not featured as much in his main classes.

“When I first started out I was nervous about showing my work to my students; poetry is vulnerable and middle schoolers can be tough critics. Though the more I’ve shared, the more I’ve realized how important it is. I had a couple of teachers growing up who were willing to put themselves out there and share their passions and it made a world of difference to me. Poetry won’t connect with every student, but for some, it will be a small encouragement to try something new and explore what works best for them.”

Before the pandemic, he rarely made videos for his classes. But as he has been distance teaching for the past two months, it has become more common and he has gotten more comfortable with recording himself.

He had challenged his students rouse a new Web 2.0 tool with a website called WeVideo for an assignment and promised he would do the same.

“I had never used WeVideo before but found it pretty easy to use; I learned a ton very quickly. It was a good opportunity to become very familiar with the program.”

One thing he encourages his students in the video to do is be bored. While it may not seem like a teacher-y thing to say, it is a call for his students to get creative, explore and learn.

“I encourage the students to ‘be bored’because prepandemic students’lives were becoming so full of activities and assignments that there was very little time to actually sit and process things,” said Willems. “This time has forced all of us to stop and reflect on our lives and what we value. Being bored forces reflection as well as creativity; if you’re bored, you’re going to start exploring and trying new things, and that can lead to awesome new discoveries.”

Ultimately, he hopes that every student in Coaldale sees it. The video is available to view on Facebook at

“This is a time of such disconnection. Teachers want students to know that just because they’re not in the classroom, doesn’t mean we’re not thinking about them all the time.”

Update: The Facebook link in the article has been fixed.

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