authentic writing · memories · poetry · professional development · Teachers College

I Remember

What is a memory?

What makes a moment memorable? Were they moments of utter joy and warmth? Or was there embitterment, stress, and even trauma that made it special? For me, the 2020-2021 school year had many moments that were both. As much as I would like to move forward from last year, those memories are seared into my mind. Chip Heath, the author of Power of Moments, describes unpleasant memories as pique moments. Pique moments of mine during the quarantine were consoling my daughter in the bathroom as she cried, “I can’t do this anymore,” the loss of internet connectivity while on a Zoom call, and hearing about people we know that lost their battle to Covid-19. Heath describes moments of joy as peak moments. I hold onto Peak moments such as the protected family time I had each day, watching a student move up levels in her reading and writing during the tutorial time, and buying our first exercise bike. 

Elements of Moments

Heath defines moments like those described above as having one or more characteristics; elevation, pride, insight, and connection. The acronym EPIC can help us remember the elements.

Elevation: Elevation moments provoke a memorable delight by boosting sensory pleasures. Simply put, moments of elevation are extraordinary.

Pride: Pride moments are moments at our best; they are filled with achievement or courage. 

Insight: Insight moments are moments where we have an epiphany. They rewire our understanding of ourselves and the world. 

Connection: Connection moments are social and strong because we share them with others. 

 Poetry as a way to Process our Moments

Writing helps us heal and process in these times, especially poetry. 

In June, I attended The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project Writing Institute. Senior deputy director of TCRWP, Mary Ehrenworth explained further that people learn in times of trouble, and kids do too. For example, after the Columbine shooting, schools increased security measures by having active shooter drills. After 9-11, we changed the way we maneuvered around airports. And Covid-19 has altered the way we interact with one another. 

While we may want the pique moments to subside, poetry can help us heal as we navigate where we have been.

I Remember

Mary started by having our cohort symphony read the first page of Joe Brainard’s poem, “I Remember.” Click here to take you to the link of the poem. Next, she shared a work in progress of her own I Remember poem she has written. Below is a screenshot of my poem I had shown my team:

Shortly after sharing my poem, I used Mary’s invitational tone of “If you were to write a poem like this, what would you put inside of it?” My team spent the next 8 minutes writing their version of the poem I remember. 

Small Groups

After writing independently, we shared our poems in small groups, which took about 3-4 minutes. Finally, we shared our favorite lines in a whole group, creating a Found Poem. 

Westhoff Remembers

My friend Janine, an instructional coach, also shared this with her team of teachers. She came up with the idea of having the group write their favorite lines on a post-it note and later type it into all-encompassing poem for the staff. 


This activity could be replicated with students that are in 4th and up. Writing helps us process and pause in the moments of joy and despair. We have learned a lot and writing like this can help students make sense of their surroundings.

4 thoughts on “I Remember

  1. Therapi, Your post today took me back to years ago when IN PERSON we both were in Mary’s section. I so appreciate you sharing a bit about her I Remember lesson. I’m moving from classroom to a coach role this coming school year and I can see me using the lesson with my staff. I appreciate your sharing. Have a great school year and stay safe.

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