My first year students were hyper today, filled with all kinds of restless energy. They woke up this morning to the first real snow of the season. We've had some snow in the last month, but this was the first real accumulation. Enough snow for snowball fights and sledding. Enough snow to make mittens and snowplows necessary. The kind of fluffy white snow that adds graceful curves to a city campus and makes it suddenly beautiful.
My students live in the building that my classroom is in, and often they stumble to my 8:30 class a bit sleepily on a Friday morning. Today, though, they seemed wide awake as they stared eagerly out the big windows at the view of other students slipping and sliding across snow-covered sidewalks, hurling snowballs at each other. I'd had a long walk from my office in the falling snow, and the students who milled about me kept saying, "Look at all the snowflakes in your hair!" Some of them even touched my hair, like a little kid would, in a manner that was so innocent that I found it sweet.
Of course, the other reason for the suppressed excitement in the room is that tomorrow is opening day of shotgun season. Many of my students are hunters, and some will be driving home tonight to meet up with relatives and friends, to drink and tell hunting stories around a fire before getting up in the dark tomorrow morning to tramp through the woods, gun in hand, following deer tracks through the fresh snow.
I decided to make use of the energy in the room, and we spent the first fifteen minutes of class writing a collaborative poem about snowfall. I passed out index cards and announced that each student needed to contribute a few lines. Many of the students, especially my construction management majors, my chemists, and my engineers, protested that they didn't write poetry. Some were pretended to be appalled that I was making them write poetry in a composition class, especially at a school mainly devoted to science. I told them to shut up and write some poetry anyhow.
When all twenty students had handed in the index cards, I shuffled them and read them aloud. The results were amazing: some lines were funny, some lyrical, some profound. The poem included lovely descriptions, nice touches of humor, and bits of narrative. Definitely it captured the excitement of the first big snowfall. When I finished reading it, one of the students said, "That was so much better than I thought it would be."
Another student said, "You were right. I guess we can write poetry."