Students at Andrew Lewis Middle School (ALMS) recently participated in a nationwide initiative to help seniors feel less isolated during this time of social distancing.
By partaking in Poem in Your Pocket Day, ALMS pupils uplifted the spirits of the elderly at Richfield Living, Snyder Nursing Home and patients at the VA Medical Center in Salem. The hand-written poems included words of encouragement and gratitude.
A sixth-grade teacher at Andrew Lewis, Katie Morris teaches four sections of approximately 25 students. Morris, also the English Department Chair, says the Academy of American Poets has sponsored Poem in Your Pocket Day for the last 18 years.
“Initiatives like this show students that we aren’t just doing an activity to ‘check a box’ or cover something this academic year. There is a whole community out there that appreciates poetry, even when their teachers aren’t forcing them to do so,” Morris said. “I also think it’s important right now to show students how we can help brighten someone’s day. I’ve encouraged them to share good books, maybe organize a family game night and of course share an uplifting poem.”
Poem in Your Pocket Day happens every year in April, which is National Poetry Month. In 2008, the Academy of American Poets took the initiative to all 50 states and annually encourages individuals around the country to participate.
It doesn’t cost any money to do a kind gesture, something Morris has emphasized to her students since her teaching career began 13 years ago. While understanding things would be different, Morris acknowledges that COVID-19 has been an even bigger adjustment than what she expected.
“We have a reasonable and accommodating schedule that allows me to see each group of students once or twice each week. I spend most of my working time creating activities, providing feedback and answering questions,” Morris said. “I have the added challenge of having a preschooler at home. I get most of my work done early in the morning, and my daughter has been enjoying a movie every day so I can answer some emails or teach mid-day. I’m so thankful for Disney Plus.”
Morris says she and her daughter have been sending out cards almost daily. “She takes charge of the return address sticker, postage stamp and a bonus sticker to seal the flap. The people sewing masks for healthcare workers could use strips of old t-shirts to make the ties,” she said. “Food pantries like the one at Andrew Lewis need donations. People can paint a rock or decorate their sidewalk. We can all do something to make a difference.”