January 14, 2017 - Michael Salinger

Police, Poetry, Pupils and Pedagogy

ck001So we continue on with our cops and kids writing poetry project. We had a second two-hour session with the officers and then two more 45-minute sessions with the 7th graders in Libbie’s class. In total we had a pair of two-hour sessions with the officers – three 45-minute sessions with the kids – and one hour and a half session of the two groups combined. I really think we could have used two more combined session and we would have really had something amazing. As it sits, what we ended up with was still pretty stellar.

Just like ALWAYS – we wish we had more time. But, we think we’ve got  a really good start on a model that will work. I think working with both group s separately first was a good idea. There is a difference between a class of cops and a class of middle-schoolers – not as much a difference as you night think (lol) but being able to scaffold the lessons was help.


The cops were used to writing reports for sure – poetry – not so much. We were able to start our time with them showing them a YouTube video of another police officer performing his work – in uniform in another writing program – to kind of let them know there was some precedence for this type of work. We also were able to relate with guys on an adult level, joking and talking about subjects we may have censored a bit in front of kids. We used the same writing clinics with both groups – the officers did get one extra clinic because of the extra time we had – a session on building narrative. We made sure though that they had a piece in a decent draft form using the same writing clinic that we were going to end up on with the kids.

Originally we thought we would only have two sessions with the students – we started with the clinic that we ended on with the officers. So we didn’t talk to the students about narrative – we just didn’t have the time. As it was, we ended up tacking on an extra session to get the students at the same level of completion as the officers. We need to extend super special thanks to Libbie for being so flexible with us.


So armed with bags of pretzels we brought our two groups together for a little collaboration. The break down ended up with an officer at a table with six students. We had the officers and students talk about their experience writing poetry about personal conflict. The cops and kids were in the same boat – trying something new at the behest of these two lunatic poets. Then we had them share the work they had produced with each other I their groups.

Next we gave them a quick lesson in combining poems into pieces for multiple voices and then we set them loose combining works and then they presented these to the room out loud.


As expected the produced works varied in artistic merit – but the collaboration between the officers and the students was the real art being created.

As I mentioned above – another collaborative writing session and one on performance and I think we would have had something really stage worthy. This is not to disparage what was accomplished at all. This has been one of my all time favorite projects and I am really looking forward to the public sharing session we are going to have at city hall on Valentines Day!


Thank you Eastlake Police Department – Eastlake Middle School – The Willoughby Eastlake Library – the students – Libbie Royko – Lori Caszatt and everyone else who helped to make this possible!

Oh and here’s a link to a story the local newspaper The News Herald ran.


I am going to be compiling a curriculum around this project – I’ll keep you updated on that.


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