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How We Haiku — Teaching Stories 17

Teaching and Learning Haiku in Community and Classroom: Stories, Challenges, Adventures

Do you teach haiku? In a classroom? An arts foundation? Community education? We want to hear about it. Want some new ideas? A place to vet an old idea before you try it “live”? Community support? How We Haiku — Teaching Stories is a monthly feature wherein we will share the many diverse and interesting ways your bring our favorite genre to your audience. Each month Brad Bennett and Jeannie Martin, co-chairs of The Haiku Foundation Education Committee, will host your stories of how you make haiku come alive for your students, and create an environment where educators can discuss the many challenges faced in bringing a fuller sense of haiku to a culture that knows little more than the stereotypes. Contact us to share your teaching stories, to ask your questions, and to find fellowship with your peers and the rest of the haiku community.

“We cannot teach a person directly, we can only facilitate his or her learning.”
— Carl Rogers

We welcome your comments (scroll down to the bottom of the page). And don’t forget about all the other fine education resources the Foundation has to offer.


This month Jeannie Martin tells us how she uses haiku in her new job.

Haiku as Teacher and Healer

How do we see the world? What is our place in the world? These and other questions may occur to us as we go about writing, teaching and sharing haiku. Or, maybe they don’t. But there is no question that haiku, with its attention to nature, to the small detail of experience shared, to the process of lifting the ordinary into the extraordinary, carries with it at times a sense of calm, peacefulness, and even wonder. Anyone who has looked up at the night sky and wondered about the stars, or waded into a cold lake and shivered with the minnows, has had a haiku experience. It is our work as teachers to guide people into the writing of haiku.

My experience as a teacher and retreat leader over the past years has taught me that no one can really teach haiku. Instead, we step aside and let haiku teach, and reach, our participants. The best “teaching” I have done is to get out of the away and let the poems take over. It is the showing, not telling, of haiku that creates the possibility of learning together and sharing our haiku. We can talk about haiku, we can share all the haiku “rules”, we can even discourse about the history and structure of the form, but it is the poems themselves that are the teachers.

I have recently taken a new job, that of doing haiku poetry in Boston nursing homes. Our agency is dedicated to reducing elder isolation in Boston, and now haiku is added to the program. I am hopeful this will work out. It is all new. I am in some ways no longer a teacher of haiku, but instead bringing haiku to frail elders as a healing experience. People in nursing homes are for the most part locked away from nature. Part of my work is to bring nature to residents as shared experience of small detail and increased sensory awareness. We have rounded the corner of late spring and are headed into summer. Meanwhile I am collecting seashells and begging and borrowing all manner of nature photos from friends.

I am taking all of my teaching experience with me into the new and challenging work, and hope that the healing of haiku will generate new stories that will dovetail with teaching stories.

— Jeannie Martin

If you would like to share your nature photos with Jeannie for her work, please send them here. Please limit your file size to no more than 1mb per photo. And thanks!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Good Luck Jeannie. Great work. Elder care is multi-faceted. Glad you are helping people regain some sense of wilderness in the city.


  2. Dear Jeannie, Wonderful to read of your new position and opportunity in Boston nursing homes. What an honor to be able to work in this new way, and I look forward to your new teaching stories. You and Brad, and all the authors of the stories, cover so many ages, topics, and offer so many ideas.

    I began a garden journal of photos on my blogs a few years ago. You are welcome to use any of my photos. I enjoy the WordPress challenges. My name links to my primary blog, Poems From Oostburg, Wisconsin.

    Some of what you say here reminds me of Madeleine L’Engle’s advice about writing. There is this combination of discipline and mystery . . .


    All the best – Ellen

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