Guest Blogger: Marty Mannion, Poet-Athlete Finds His Voice Through Soccer

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Written By: Marty Mannion, Education Director-America SCORES Bay Area

Anthony Spears barely spoke to anyone other than his parents during 1st and 2nd grade at ER Taylor Elementary School.  Looking back he explained “It was hard to talk to strangers the most because you don’t know them.  How are you supposed to talk to people you don’t know?”  Anthony’s anxiety highlights the fundamental challenge facing teachers at the beginning of the school year.  They must transform a room full of “strangers” into a team of students that support each other in writing, sharing and learning together.  This is especially challenging with students who are new to the country or dealing with poverty.

Anthony and hundreds of other students each year who struggle in the traditional classroom setting find the answer in America SCORES Bay Area’s magic mix of soccer, writing and community service.  After school students practice soccer and write poetry with their team and on Saturdays they compete against other schools, where they also share poems before each game.

You might wonder, "A soccer and writing program?  Why and how?”  America SCORES helps students discover that writing is a social action and writing is for everybody.  It is a dialogue between a speaker and the world, which must include a responsive, safe audience.  What better audience and writing community is there than a team that is already working together towards a common goal?

When poet-athletes on America SCORES teams want to be heard by their teammates, opponents, coaches or communities, they have no choice but to become the author of their own story.  Most of all, poetry and soccer make a great team because they both know how to have fun!  The America SCORES Bay Area program is a year-long festival and celebration of all that children have to say, and all the soccer they can play.

For students like Anthony, joining the America SCORES team transforms the school experience from a building full of strangers to a team full of friends who value each other's writing.  Only after every student experiences this transformation can we expect them to stay engaged and meet their full potential in the classroom.

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