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Processing the pandemic through poetry


Poetry offered one teacher's students a healthy and accessible way to process change.

​By Lory Peroff

It all happened so fast. One moment, I was hugging my students at the classroom door and wishing them a happy spring break and the next, I was scrambling to figure out Zoom, cleaning out cubbies, and having the sad realization that I wouldn’t physically finish the school year with them. None of this sat well with me.

It wasn’t just me. Many of my students expressed a sense of loss, fear and anxiety. The trauma of being uprooted from their school community, acclimating to changes in their routines, and the fear of the pandemic cast a shadow over everything.

I encouraged my students to share their feelings through writing. Poetry offered my students a healthy and accessible way to process all the changes. I found that poetry has been a valuable tool in building empathy and compassion. It challenges students to see the world not only through their own eyes but also through another person’s perspective.

Here are a few poems that my students wrote during the pandemic. Their poems are honest, reflective and empathetic. They are heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.

I AM…..
By Chiara Close (grade 4)

I am a kid in the pandemic

I wonder if we will travel again
I hear the news and how there are more cases everyday
I see everyone in masks
I wish to have fun and live a normal life again
I am a kid in the pandemic

I pretend that we are still living normally everyday not thinking about the pandemic
I feel the keyboard as I type on the screen on zoom
I touch the hand sanitizer bottle everyday
I worry if I will get the virus
I am a kid in the pandemic

I understand what everyone is going through, wearing mask everyday, watching the news
seeing if the pandemic is getting better or worse
I say “Will I be able to do anything again?”
I dream to be free, live again
I try to get used to how we are living
I hope everyone will be happy
I am a kid during the pandemic

Why I wrote this poemI wrote this poem from my own perspective. So many things have changed in my life since the pandemic. Every day I have to wear a mask. School is totally different. Before last year I had never done Zoom but now it is what we do every day. I am getting used to all the changes. I wanted to share that even though school is different it is more fun than I thought. I really miss doing normal things like going outside without having to wear a mask. I am also excited about the holidays coming up so we don’t always have to only hear about COVID on the news.

Perspective Poem
By Suriel Wane (grade 4)

My sister has covid.
I wonder if I will ever see my sister again.
I hear a frail voice over the phone saying “Do not worry”
I see blankness like i am in a room with no doors or windows
I wish i could visit her even though i know my life is at stake
My sister has covid.

I pretend that I can see her and feel her warmth
I feel empty and hopeless without her
I touch her pillow remembering the last time she slept.
I worry that soon I will have to go to a grave and weep my heart out
My sister has covid

I understand that I might become an only child
I say to myself everything is going to be okay when I know it is not
I dream that she is home safe and hugging me tightly
I try to hold in my tears, but they always just burst out
I hope that someday when I wake up she is there looking lovingly over me
My sister has covid

Why I wrote this poemWhen I wrote this perspective poem I felt depressed and lucky. I felt depressed because while I was writing I really tried to put my feelings in it and asked myself, “How would I feel if my sister really had covid?'' I just felt so depressed thinking about if one of my family members was really sick. Writing this poem really made me feel lucky because my family is safe and healthy so far. I got to see all my family. I even got to hear my grandma that lives in Senegal, Dakar! When I wrote this poem I wanted to tell those who have a loved one affected by covid to hang in there and remember that people love you and care for you. You are not alone.

I AM...
By Mirnah Amer (grade 5)

I am one of the people that risk their lives everyday in hope of saving others.
I wonder if there will not be a need for me to risk my life everyday.
I hear all the ventilators pumping every last breath that a patient can breathe.
I see the thousands of sicknesses, with the millions of possible cures.
I wish that one day i’ll be in no need to put my life on the front line

I am one of the people that risk their lives everyday in hope of saving others.
I pretend it's easy to brush of the fact that l have a chance of being ill
I feel the need to be at work every single day or the worst will happen
I touch the surface where many have come before me.
I worry when the lowest point of a person shows no faith.
I am one of the people that risk their lives every day in hope of saving others.

I understand that my patients tears are words the heart can't express
I say its hard to live like everyday is your last.
I dream of having a day at work when l don't have to worry about anything but my safety.
I try my best to comfort my patients as if they are my own family.
I hope that when this pandemic is over that people learn to take nothing for granted
I am one of those people that risk their lives everyday in hope of saving others.

Why I wrote this poemI wrote this poem for many reasons, and I think that I was hoping to spread awareness about how much the health care workers have done for us and the world in general. Without them we would be almost nowhere. The second reason being, I wanted to be in that spot, thinking about how they feel in this pandemic, with cases growing by the minute. I wanted this poem to show that we are supporting and backing them up. Through this poem I realized that poems are much more than words.

In a time of social distancing and physical isolation, poetry has been a great connector for my students. It has not only been a way for them to learn about others but also a way for them to learn about themselves. Poetry can’t cure coronavirus, reopen schools, or make everything normal again. But it might just help us feel a little less alone.

Lory Walker Peroff is a fourth-grade teacher at Waikiki Elementary School and a Hope Street Group National Teacher Fellow alumna who believes writing is not only enjoyable but essential. She lives in Honolulu with her husband, two energetic and curious daughters, five chickens, two ducks, and one peahen.

Contact Information

Communications Branch

Phone: (808) 784-6200

Email: doeinfo@k12.hi.us

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