The Corona Collection – A Conversation
School’s out for summer. For most children during this pandemic school has been out for a very long time. Not just school but playgrounds, football fields, cinemas, restaurants, playdates with friends, visits with grandparents and so much else.
We’ve all needed support to navigate our way through the crisis, but children especially have needed help and reassurance to know that the world is not ending however much it might seem like that from where they are standing.
Despite most parents not being trained teachers and teachers not able to teach as they normally would, these adults have been expected to meet the educational requirements set out for children by government during the lockdown. Children have been scared, confused, frustrated, sad, depressed and bored. How can their learning needs be met when issues relating to their mental health and well-being are so overwhelming?
I live in North London where there are many families and young children. Within a mile radius of my house there are 9 primary schools and one large secondary. In March 2020 when school closures were announced my concern was for all those school children. How, I wondered, would they and their carers cope?
That’s where poetry comes in.
I am a parent, educator and a trained counsellor. I am also a writer and a poet. When a problem overwhelms me, I turn to poetry. When I need to make sense of my feelings and voice my concerns, I turn to poetry. A poem is a way of sharing thoughts and ideas widely with others. A poem is a conversation and one that can be easily shared, even (or perhaps especially) from a place of isolation.
Having conversations, especially with our children, is key to understanding what the other is thinking, feeling, what they value and what they most need and want to happen. I wrote this poem as a way of starting that conversation.
you woke up tomorrow
and there weren’t all these rules
like: YOU HAVE TO STAY HOME!
and: YOU CAN’T GO TO SCHOOL!
And whatever you wished for,
where to go, what to do,
who to be with, how many –
was all up to you.
Where would it be,
doing what, and with whom?
Would you go to the park
or fly up to the moon?
You could go on a picnic
or stay in your room.
If you woke up tomorrow,
restrictions all lifted –
what kind of a world
would you want to be gifted?
I took the poem to my local community, conducting pavement interviews with children at a distance, talking to teachers in schools, children of key workers and others in attendance. Inspired by the conversations I was having I wrote more poems and those poems grew into a collection The Corona Collection – A Conversation.
The collection is designed to encourage ongoing conversation between children and adults, in school and at home. I have created resources to go alongside the poems and used the collection to deliver poetry workshops via zoom to children as far away as Hong Kong! In June and July I also ran workshops with small groups of pupils back at school, in their ‘bubbles’.
Since June over 6,000 physical copies of The Corona Collection have been printed and distributed to children and schools around the country. Pop Up Projects took the initiative and gifted 2,000 copies of a special edition to their partner schools nationwide. In London, recognising the value of poetry, Enfield Council adopted the collection, making it central to their PSHE and recovery curriculum for KS2 and transitioning pupils across the borough and have already distributed 4,300 copies. My hope is that organisations around the country will follow suit.
A website www.coronacollectionpoetry.com has been set up as a hub for resources and news, and to gather new poetry and conversations in response.
Cheryl Moskowitz is a poet and educator. She writes for adults and children, runs workshops regularly in schools and is passionate about getting teachers and pupils to write their own poems. She runs writing projects in a wide variety of community settings often working with the most disadvantaged and vulnerable. She serves on the Creative Council for Create Arts and is working with Pop Up on a three-year project to develop creative resources for use in SEN schools across Kent.