ZU's Got Poets - Using Poetry (I don't understand) to Teach

Now technically this was a leadership class project - but it ties in very nicely with an event my Strategy Class has planned on Monday, May 28, 2012. The event this coming Monday is The Strategy of Poetry - and I am on pins and needles with excitment for it!

This post though is about an awesome event organised last year by: Saeed Al Zaabi, Tariq Al Hosani and Yousif Ali Sultan.  As regular readers can tell, I realised quickly that with boys in particular "doing" is the best way to achieve my goal of "teaching" and "learning" - and as a bonus I am entertained, well-fed, learn so much about the culture here and get regular doses of extreme pride through my students' creativity, ingenuity and hard work (to remember in the moments of  extreme frustration when they WILL NOT listen in class).


I think it is general knowledge that poetry is important in the Arab world - and important in the UAE in particular. It is used to express pride, gratitude, love and it is used for strategic purposes (see, all things really do relate back to strategy). I have had the honour to have wonderful poets in class (not always the ones who pay 100% attention, 100% of the time in class) - and I appreciate how they see the world. I love poetry myself - Jacques Prevert to help me learn and understand French better (French like Arabic is more about meaning than words) - and I even wrote a bit of poetry myself in my angst-filled youth.

The biggest problem is I don't understand Arabic (a good and a bad thing when you teach young men - mainly good I think) - but I "understand" the meaning when they recite a poem (or I feel I understand anyways).

Poets waiting to start

So, back to the event. In my leadership class (only taught once) I had the students organize an event – e.g. using leadership skills in action. There was the Car Show, the Walk-a-Thon and ZU’s Got Poets.

There were five poets chosen to compete for the top prize and an  MC was asked  to host the event. They organized the posters, the medals, the food, the oud, the dates, coffee, and chocolates (!) everything needed for the event (with loads of support from Paul Abraham and  never-ending help from Charif Rabah, and Joy Saneo – love you guys!)

The day of the event was a bit stressful, many male students were needed for another event on the girl’s campus and the organisers were worried about attendance – from the photos you can see the worry wasn’t justified – one of the poets was late! – and yet it worked out in the end of course.

Full house

Saeed thanking people for attending

This was the first Arabic poetry event I had seen and it was amazing, the poets worked to the audience, the audience recited words and phrases back – the audience cheered and laughed and the atmosphere in the auditorium was electric. The poets spoke of love, of pride and respect for their fathers, for the UAE, and it was just a very happy moment for me.

The structure of strategy is similar in many places – but the tactics – what works to implement the chosen strategy is what changes. Here, in the UAE, with my students - Poetry works J

I welcome you to the event on Monday – contact me through comments and I will provide your details to security – sorry, female undergraduate students won’t be able to attend, but I have asked them to videotape it.

Volunteers counting the votes

Ahmed accepting his prize

Khalaf accepting his prize

The poets and organisers

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