This coming week I am presenting at a conference for school leaders. I am discussing their roles in the development of effective writing programs in schools. What is there contribution to effective writing? Are they visible as writers to their staff, students and parent community? Do they have secret reading and writing lives?
However, that is not what I wish to focus on here. As I sit here on this delightful Sunday afternoon preparing for the conference, I am aware of two suitcases open on the floor of my study. One is my Poet’s Suitcase where my collection of poetry books is stored. The other, I call my suitcase of surprises. The latter suitcase is the one I generally take on my daily journeys to schools. It is a small inexpensive case I purchased on
Seventh Avenue New Yorkfor the princely sum of $25 back in 2006. I spotted it in one of those variety stores that carries assorted paraphernalia ranging from junk to jewels. It has been such a great resource, although it is beginning to look a little tired of late. I may have to put it out to pasture before this year ends I’m afraid. It’s okay though, I think I have another one stored in the loft.
When I enter schools dragging it behind me teachers often joke that I look like I’m heading for the departure lounge. Inside the case I carry assorted professional texts, novels and picture story books, numerous writer’s notebooks, folders, my netbook computer, pens, sticky notes and various artifacts. The contents change regularly depending on the school I am visiting and the particular focus of my work that day.
For the benefit of teachers and students I often extract something from the case that they have not seen before, hence the name suitcase of surprises. Sometimes it’s a new book, or maybe an artifact I hope will arouse curiosity and questions.
The other suitcase (My Poet’s Suitcase) is much older; having belonged to my grandfather. This one has no capacity for free wheeling and so I am forced to lug it about when I take it to schools. Containing up to100 hundred poetry books, it is extremely heavy. But, because it belonged to my Grand-dad it has special significance. I sometimes refer to it as my poet’s playstation. It is adorned with stickers and is a curiosity in itself. I reveal its contents with deliberate ceremony.