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  • Writer's pictureMark Bird

When Children Become Poets: Not Future Poets, but Poets of Now. A Poem about Choice and Voice for Children's Mental Health Week: 'I Did Not Choose.'

Updated: Feb 5

Wow. Wow. Wow.

After teaching for 26 years, lessons like this don't come around too often. Today, I am a proud teacher (and poet) but more importantly, I watched in awe as children, some supposed reluctant writers, transformed into accomplished and proud poets in front of my eyes. None of this silly, "You are future poets." They are today's poets and we should take heed.

They dissected my poem, "I Did Not Choose" like wise, old, seasoned poets themselves. "Oh Mr Bird, this poem is about the choices I don't have and how they lead me to the choices I do." Children are the rawest and rarest of observers by their very nature; poets ready to share, without inhibitions, a snapshot of a ten year old life. They shared their worlds, fears and hopes, and like experts, tuned into the choices they do or do not have. Some were aspirational. Some had already decided that life isn't fair. However, every single one realised their destiny is theirs to direct.

Through the lines and stanzas, they shared deeply sad moments they had already experienced on Earth. They also shared the white of truth of childhood in action. Some even cried as they read their work proudly, no sense of shame of the emotion that they'd conjured from deep within. Inspirational doesn't do it justice.

Many said, "This is the best thing I've ever written." Or, "I didn't realise how good I am at writing poetry." It was so good, we even cancelled Maths! Ssh. There was no way I was going to cut off a lesson packed with wonder and reality in equal measure.

Some children couldn't wait to tell me, "I'm going home to write more poetry tonight."

Every single poem was worthy of dissection and high praise in itself. And, as children read their poems to the class, as if they'd been performing on the 'spoken word' circuit for their entire life, I knew this lesson had woken something inside them that no ascribed, government-approved curriculum could ever do. They brimmed with confidence. They felt safe and assured within their voice.

The future of our world is safe in the softest of hands and the brightest of minds.

I implore you to read each poem.

Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow.

I Did Not Choose - Template
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Here is my original poem: (Children's Mental Health Week)

I Did Not Choose

I did not choose my day of birth

I did not choose my name

I did not choose my start on Earth

I did not choose my brain

I did not choose my faith or face

I did not choose my schools

I did not choose my human race

I did not choose the rules

I cannot choose the sunshine days

I cannot choose the storm

I cannot choose the people’s ways

I cannot choose the norm

But somewhere in the in-between

from first to final gasp

My destiny and who I'll be

is tight within my grasp

So I will choose: Escape the chains

So I will choose: Be free

So I will choose: Erase the stains

So I will choose: Be Me

I’ll choose each day not I but We

I’ll choose and chase the choice

I’ll choose my path and what I’ll be

I’ll choose to hear my voice

Mark Bird

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