Most of the time the Parrott Middle School's media center looks like a typical library. For two days last week it looked like a coffeehouse. There was, in fact, coffee being served. The tables were covered with cloths. Fireless candles flickered. There were menus/playbills on the tables. As many classes as could be handled were invited to Parrott's Poppin' Poetry Cafe to hear and see media specialist/reading teacher Liz Marion's and eighth-grade language arts teacher Josandra Maner's students read their original poems.
There were also readings of original and published poems by school staff members. Maner's students are in a preadvanced placement class.
The performing staff members included school resource officer Deputy Ken Keeney, who recited an original poem; principal Leechele Booker, who read a student's poem; assistant principal Nancy Vasquez read a Jose Marti poem in Spanish; and secretary Rose Morris, who read her own poem. Both event-coordinating teachers read published works.
There were six performances each day, and students served visitors as well as recited. The menu included cookies, coffee, tea, hot chocolate and water. The refreshments were funded by the sale of Texas Roadhouse gift cards during a library fundraiser.
Most students only performed one day. A few were asked to be in the show both days.
One was Joey Hernandez, 14, who added the coffeehouse touch with his bongos. He is not an experienced bongo player, but he does play drums in the band. He said he was "wingin' it" but has been playing drums since sixth grade.
Joey recited his poem, Mysterious, and said, "I actually enjoy it and had a lot of fun doing this."
As part of their poetry studies, students had to research poets of their choice. Their original poems were to be designed in the same manner as the poets they studied. The students were directed to analyze and pick the figurative language out of their poets' work. Maner hoped the students would understand idioms, sarcasm, metaphors and similes.
Students made displays of their poets that were exhibited during the cafe program. The stage area was draped with black and covered with hundreds of tiny white lights.
One of the few participating seventh-graders, Sequouiyah Jones, 14, recited a poem called No Matter.
She explained what she got out of the experience of reciting in front of a crowd. "No matter who's watching, you've got to take a chance," she said. "No matter what you go through, you've always got something to show people."
Eighth-grader Quaneisha Simmons, 14, learned about figurative language and said to "have fun in your life. Learn to speak up and be yourself."
Rosalynn Mossgrove, 14, eighth grade, said she learned "to appreciate what other people do and how they write." As for speaking in front of a crowd, she said, "Get up and just do it." That wasn't too hard for her, though. She's a cheerleader and "on the mission team at church, so I'm used to walking up to people and just talking to them."
Maner, 31, is a Parrott Middle School graduate and a former student of Liz Marion, 46. "I taught her everything she knows," Marion said.
Both were pleased with the performances of their current students. "I'm so proud of them," Maner said. "It turned out so well."