Noel Bannon is a teacher at St. Michael’s Holy Faith Secondary School in Finglas, Dublin 11, which is a designated DEIS school (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), and he talks about his school’s experience of Poetry Aloud…
I have been involved with Poetry Aloud for the past three years and it has been a tremendously positive experience for the students who have participated and for me as a teacher. For those who volunteered to take on the challenge, the process of preparing to speak poetry in a venue like the National Library of Ireland fosters confidence and self-belief. Helping to prepare students – many of whom I don’t normally teach – has given me an opportunity to get to know them, encourage them, and value their uniqueness.
In our first year of entering the competition, I invited students from my third year and Transition Year classes to get involved. Twelve students reached the agreed standard for competing in the National Library. That year was a learning experience for all of us and students were proud of their achievement in speaking their poems to the best of their ability. A number of students were commended by the judges and one student was picked for the national semi-final. In our second year, I invited all students to participate. After an initial burst of enthusiasm, approximately 20 students (ranging from first years to fifth years) stayed the course and spoke their prepared poems in the NLI. Three of these students reached the national semi-final standard. In our third year, 32 students (ranging from first years to sixth years) competed in the National Library. Six students reached the national semi-final stage. Three students (two seniors and a first year) reached the national final. Shauna Hession, 5th Year, was chosen as the winner of the senior category and overall winner of the Poetry Aloud competition 2012. Emmanuella Pomah, 5th year, was awarded second place in the senior category. First and second place in the senior category to students from our school!
My advice to any teacher thinking about entering the competition is to jump right in. Begin with a smaller group and gain knowledge and experience by attending the Poetry Aloud competition. Check out previous participants on the website. I had concerns about diction, accents and the type of pronunciation that might be expected. I made a conscious decision to let the students be themselves and concentrate on the emotions of the poem while insisting that every word should be audible.
Participating in Poetry Aloud has certainly raised the profile and awareness of poetry across our school community. Students who did not enter the competition almost certainly had participants standing before them reciting poetry. This year, Shauna and Emmanuella spoke their poems at our school talent show before an audience of 400 people each night, and you could hear a pin drop! Finally, as the competition involves a mixture of being prepared to learn the poems, controlling nerves when speaking in public, and some dramatic presence, you may be surprised at the students who turn out to be exceptional performers.
Bean an Phoist says: If you’re a teacher thinking of entering your students in Poetry Aloud 2013, then you’ll find the entry form (and more information) here. Closing date is Friday 27 September!