Welcome to May My Heart Be Strong, an anthology of writing by the sixth-and seventh-grade students of IS 187-Hudson Cliffs School in Manhattan. It was completed during a ten-week residency from December of 2016 through February of 2017 for Teachers & Writers Collaborative.
In Ms. Linehan’s classroom, we used ancient Egyptian poetry to help students write their own poems to get in touch with the way that ancient Egyptians thought and felt. We started with questions: Ancient Egyptians depended on the Nile and praised its power––what do you depend on and find worthy of praise? Ancient Egyptians wanted to have everything they needed to live a good life, both here and in the afterlife––what do you need to realize your goals and be happy? The poems that the students wrote to answer these timeless questions are sometimes funny, sometimes moving, often both. In Ms. Velasco’s classroom, our goal was to use creative writing techniques to deepen the students’ understanding of the first Ten Amendments to the Constitution.
We showed them photographs of political rallies and protests from around the world, encouraged them to identify with one person in the picture, then asked them, This person in the photograph––what do they see? What do they hear? What are they afraid of? What do they want? And why do they want it? The students then crafted their answers into brief monologues that show how powerful curiosity and empathy can be in deepening our understanding of others.
My thanks to Cynthia Chory, principal of IS 187, and to Assistant Principal Nilda Marrero for their support for this project. A special thanks to Parent Coordinator Isabelle Eaton for her enthusiasm and positivity in making this program possible. My thanks especially to Catherine Linehan, seventh-grade teacher at IS 187, and to Melisa Velasco, sixth- and seventh-grade teacher at IS 187, for being strong and supportive partners in the classroom.
Finally, a big thank you to the students of IS 187 for all your creativity and compassion that went into the writing of these poems. This book is for you.
A Piece of the Sun
by Basma (6th grade)
May I be able to create a medicine
to save everyone from cancer at once
May I have bread and anything that the sick patients desire
May I have fresh and beautiful water from the Nile River
to see the smile on the wonderful people
May I have a piece of the sun
and the most precious flowers on all of the earth
to make their faces glow
Lastly, may I exterminate the horrible creature
that wishes death upon everyone
May I return the sick ones
to their nice, peaceful, loving childhood
May I give my heart for the others to survive
Please, never let them face the fears of death
pain and sourness
May I take the sick ones to a waterfall
deep in the beautiful, meaningful forest
where they can thrive and survive
All the Time In the World
by Victoria (6th grade)
May I be able to change time so I can go to the past
and have all the time in the world to spend with you.
I need food to go back in time.
I need some kind of liquid
so I can talk to her.
I need pretty flowers, like roses,
and a family that lives in palaces.
May I go back in time before she leaves.
May I have my heart that will not have been broken.
Please don’t let this happen to anyone else.