Week 1 at Washington: “We’re all cool in a way”

George Washington Elementary down in Hegewisch is more than special to me. It was the first school that I was assigned to as a poet-in-residence with the Chicago Poetry Center, and in many ways, I was finally beginning to live a dream I’d have since I was 14 of teaching poetry in a city. I’m not too sure if I was more nervous on that day in Winter 2019, or if I was more nervous coming back today, my first time teaching in a classroom after a year of staying virtual.. but I do know I left the day feeling just as excited and ready for a great year!

After a storied time with Rosio Nazimek as the 8th Grade ELA teacher, Ms. Strus now holds the reins. A beautiful classroom with vibrant student artwork. An expansive bookcase with stories from all different corners and with all different faces on them. An east-facing window wall that collects all of the morning sunlight. I feel so lucky to be back at Washington, every bit of it just as beautiful as it felt during my first year of teaching.

For our introductory class, we watched the Poetry Foundation’s rendition of Gwendolyn Brooks’ We Real Cool, brought to life by Manual Cinema with help from Chicagoans Eve Ewing, Nate Marshall, Jamila Woods, and Ayanna Woods, the classic tale helps bring the stories and lives of Chicago to the forefront and lets us know that a poem can take us on a journey, no matter where the poet wants us to go.

For the first writing exercise, we expanded a bit on Gwendolyn’s ideas here and asked ourselves: what makes us cool?

Check out a few of the poems from Week One of poetry classes at George Washington Elementary:




Group 2


Why We Are Cool
By Giovanni G.

It’s not for the
things we do or say, or
for sports we play

It’s not for things
we do all day, or
not for the things
we say the same.

We are cool because
we are not the same,
or maybe that we
play the same games, or
are cool on the
way we are. People
will say that is hard,
But to us, it’s just
who we are.


by Angel A.

We’re all cool in a way.
In the end, no one’s the same.


by Anabel M.

The way we treat eachother
brings us closer together.

It’s also the things we like
that make our friendship better.

But the day that our friendship
dies is never.



Group 1


by Ava N.

They follow the latest online trends
They will care for one another till the end
they laugh and cry, making others do the same
I guess nobody will ever call them “lame!”

I read and write without a stop
I hope that someday I will reach the top
I do not care for what is thought of me
This, I hope others will see.


by Andrew A.

The football players.
Eleven on the green turf.

We are lined up in shotgun –
will it be a pass, or a run?

Touchdown pass, we scored!
Our fans are never bored.

We win, win, win
After the game, we all need oxygen.
Together, forever.


by Melissa R.

Here we are, hanging out in recess.
No matter what we do at home.
No matter how smart we are.
No matter how sociable we are.

No matter our humor
No matter our sense of pop culture
No matter how rough the world is
We still hang out, like the cool people do.



Group 3:


by Isabel G.

What does cool mean? Is it the color green?
Is it the socks we wear? Or the way we brush our hair?

Is it the way we walk? Or the way we talk?

It can be anything.
Or nothing at all.


Social Media
by Anissa H.

Posting pretty pictures at night
hoping to be famous over likes
Shaming others for fun
When deep down, my insecurities are just being dumb.
I let out my feelings to not feel sad
But yet, it’s me who gets hurt and mad.


Live and Laugh
by Francisco P.

We laugh on the
Way there – we laugh
On the way back.

We stay truthful.
We live truthful.

Always keep it real.
Always one hundred.




“Writing poetry makes me feel like I can see myself, like I can see my reflection, but not in a mirror, in the world. I write and I know I can be reflected.”
-Oscar S.

“Writing poetry makes me feel free.”
-Buenda D.

“Writing poetry is like your best friend.”
-Jessica M.