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School competition introduces Bruins to world of poetry

English Teacher Sherlyn Reafsnyder uses poem memorization, in preparation for the Poetry Out Loud competition, as her class Semester One final each year. Photo by Zach Fink.

On January 29th, there will be a school-wide Poetry Out Loud recitation competition, whose competitors will consist of Bruins chosen by their teachers. 

Students enrolled in Freshman through Junior English classes were required to memorize and recite two poems from the Poetry Out Loud website. The students that teachers felt performed the best were chosen to compete in the school-wide competition with the opportunity to move on to the state competition, or even all the way to a national competition, with a first place prize of $20,000.

Freshman Robert Maple described how it feels to have the opportunity to go to such high levels of competition.

“I feel like that’s kinda cool to have the opportunity to [go to a statewide competition],” he said. “I just think it’s kind of weird it is something that is required. But, I think it’s a good opportunity.”

According to English Teacher Sherlyn Reafsnyder, Bear River has been represented at the state level multiple times.

“In nine years that we’ve been doing it we’ve had three of our kids go to the state competition, might be four,” she said. “At state, we’ve had two second place winners and a third place winner from our school.”

Yerasette Robles-Lara, a sophomore, said that the opportunity is exciting yet somewhat worrisome. 

“I mean, it’s pretty cool,” she said. “But [it’s] kind of stressful even though I probably won’t [be chosen to] do it.”

Many students had a lack of confidence in their recitation skills.

“I’m not really sure that I can [make it to the school-wide competition],” Maple said. “But, I will do it if I can.”

Freshman Maya Bussinger, however, said that she did not want to compete. When asked if she would compete if chosen she said she would not.

“No,” she said, before elaborating. “I have a really bad reason for this: I don’t feel like it.”

All of Mrs. Reafsnyder’s classes had Poetry Out Loud as their final. Mrs. Reafsnyder provided some insight into how she thinks students feel about having this as their final instead of a more traditional test or essay and also as to why she uses it as her final.

“I’m just one teacher,” she said. “I do know that my kids tend to like the poetry unit that goes along with it. Does everybody like standing up in front of people to speak? The answer to that, from my experience and from what research shows is that that’s a number one fear people have. Is it the one thing you have to learn how to do in order to be successful in life and for job interviews and for everything else? Yes.”

Freshman Madeline Mattson said that she would prefer a more traditional final over this.

“I wish we had a normal test,” she said. “For me, that’s easier because I suck at presenting.”

Other students such as Bussinger disagreed saying that Poetry Out Loud was an easier final. Maple, however, felt that it was strange.

“I think it’s kind of weird,” he said. “Usually, finals are supposed to be memorizing everything you’ve learned throughout the year. We haven’t really done any poetry except for two poems right before the final.”

Bussinger said that it was helpful to know exactly what to prepare for on her final.

“It’s actually really nice,” she said.

Maple agreed saying he enjoyed the security. Mattson, however, had a different opinion on the subject of preparation.

“I normally know what to prepare for,” she said. “I don’t prepare.”

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School competition introduces Bruins to world of poetry