Like so many other Americans, Ann Neary watched Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with horror.
As a teacher of Advanced Placement Literature and also in the Pathways alternative program at Staples High School, she often tells students that the reason we read literature — especially works from around the world — is to understand the breadth of human experience, and acknowledge the similarities across all humanity.
As teachers, Neary says, “we must ensure young people are infused with the compassion and skills to make the world a better place. Creating environments where they are able to grow, and step into a change-making mindset, is vital.”
She also realized she knew very little about Ukrainian literature. She clicked on World Without Borders Campus — a site that connects students and educators to eye-opening contemporary literature from across the globe — and found poetry, stories and children’s folk tales appropriate for the the variety of classes she teaches.
She and her students spent a week learning together from the news, from literature and from each other. Then they created responses.
Some students wrote reverse poems: Read top to bottom there is one message, but if read bottom to top, the opposite. “This appealed to their understanding of opposing forces at work in the world,” Neary explains.
Others used words from the literature to write ‘found poems.”
All, Neary says, wrote with “intent of showing compassion and support to the people of Ukraine.”
(Ben Cohen, Sabrina Didner, Phoebe Miller,Talia Perkins, Natasha Taubenheim)
(Will Harmon, below)
(Some students did not want their names published. Those who did are noted above.)