Joel is a much sought after workshop facilitator and has spent the last ten years running poetry workshops for organisations and schools all over the world, including a month long teaching residency at Melbourne’s Xavier College. He currently leads these workshops in approx. fifteen different schools a year, from primary schools to Universities, from day long incursions to month-long residencies, from juvenile justice centres to small community schools to elite private schools. The workshops focus on Spoken Word as an artistic form that integrates literary and poetic skills with performance and speech tools. The poetic process Joel uses enables students to reflect on issues of identity/self-stories and social justice/advocacy and focusses on helping students in the understanding of their own story and social existence. This then paves the way for an articulation of their story whilst developing their creative writing and speaking skills. The workshops can easily fit into curriculum requirements within English and literature classes and often ends with a performance from students that is part of their assessment for a particular unit.
Mount Evelyn Christian School
Northside Christian College
Whitehorse Primary School
Donvale Christian College
Bayswater Secondary College
Heatherton Christian College
Flinders Christian Community College
Tabor College Victoria
Caroline Chisolm Catholic College
Box hill High school
Illawarra Christian School
Buckley Park College
Yarra Valley Grammar
Christian College Geelong
St. Bedes College
Shelford Girls Grammar
Camberwell Girls Grammar
St. Andrews Christian College
Schools Recently Visited
Example of Incursion Options
Performance Poetry Opener: One Session covering an introduction to the world of performance poetry with students beginning to write their own poem. (2 hours)
Performance Poetry Beginner: 3-4 sessions focussed mainly on Creative and Poetic writing development with students having a poem to perform by the end of the sessions. (Full day)
Performance Poetry Essentials: 7-8 sessions beginning with creative development and moving into poem construction, editing techniques and performative tools with optional outcomes being- Class Performance/Poetry Slam Competition/Recorded poems published as online album. (Two full days)
Speaking: Joel also speaks about any topic you are after at school graduations, assemblies, chapels, etc. See the Speaking page for more topical info.
Note: Each of these incursions are based on ONE class (approx. 25 students or less). Multiply number of classes to determine length of incursion time- i.e. For three different Year 11 English class groups doing POETRY ESSENTIALS Joel would need to be in the school for 6-7 full days; for four different year 8 English class groups doing POETRY BASICS Joel would need to be in the school for four days. These classes may be spread out as class timetables dictate for less interruption.
Cost: Pricing is worked out on a school by school basis. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to enquire.
Joel is a master craftsman with words, able to tell stories through his poems to entertain any audience, making them laugh, imagine, wonder, and think. Joel engages with secondary students well, leading students to laugh at the quirkiness of life, while moving them to think deeply about the many social justice issues they and others around the world face each day.In his poetry writing workshops for students and teachers, Joel engages with participants in creative and practical ways, encouraging them to explore and apply various writing tools to make their own poems come alive. Joel is a skilled communicator and I highly recommend him as a keynote presenter.
Dr Fiona Partridge- CEN Executive Officer | Professional Learning Presenter
Joel has a warm, friendly and fun nature (that's just a little bit cheeky) which engages students and makes poetry 'real', modern and relevant to a teenage audience. Joel makes poetry come alive through his large group presentations and small group workshops where he discusses what inspires him; how he writes; includes performances of his poetry; and, best of all - he gets students writing poetry!
Marissa Joyce - Head of English- Sienna College
“It was a fantastic experience for our students...every student in the room was enthralled and often deeply moved. Joel opened the students' eyes to the world of spoken word poetry and helped to facilitate a shift in how they perceived poetry. Students left feeling inspired and with an awakened desire to engage with poetry writing of their own.”
English Teacher- Mount Evelyn Christian School
“The lessons were different and interesting and used a variety of learning styles to continue to convey essential literary techniques and skills. Each of our students grew in personal confidence and felt they were able to express more of themselves and their experience in a meaningful and therapeutic manner. There was clear and assessable growth in student literacy outcomes and to have a published finished product at the end of the unit just made the experience even more meaningful for staff and for students.”
English Teacher- Jarrah School
Joel has attended Donvale Secondary College on six occasions and conducted several days of lessons in order to train and prepare our Year 8 students for the College Poetry Slam. There are many benefits to his involvement in this way in a school, some of these not the obvious ones. He is able to provide a safe and positive environment for student expression (with appropriate balance),as he skills student in the use of literary devices encouraging sthem to articulate their ideas through the medium of poetic expression.He works well with students, particularly engaging those who may not normally be highly engaged in classroom activities. He has good class control, excellent voice projection and is quite a skilled deliverer of his craft as well as an inspirational poet himself. The leadership of our school found the Year 8 student Poetry Slam Presentations so impressive that several of these Year 8 poets were showcased at the annual Thanksgiving Service, an event attended by parents, students and school board members. I would highly recommend Joel in this capacity.
Janice Fielding- Senior English Teacher – Donvale Christian College
Joel McKerrow's visit to Heatherton was a brilliant incursion. The workshops for my English classes were interactive and great fun, spread across Years 7 to 9. Poetry as old and boring was thrown out the window as students were spellbound listening to poetry delivered in such a modern and compelling way in Joel's performances. The techniques they learned with Joel were then used to create interesting and vibrant pieces of their own. Joel is a great resource and we will be looking to repeat his incursion next year.
Pam Sanderson – Heatherton Christian College
Joel McKerrow is an energised and enthusiastic master of words that has a talent for teaching young adults about poetry and inspiring them to create their own unique spoken word masterpieces. Joel visited Caroline Chisholm Catholic College in December last year to work with a small group of budding spoken word artists as part of our Directions 9 enrichment week. Over the course of two days, he taught them various techniques for crafting, editing, and performing their work. His ability to connect with students and instil them with the confidence to record their own work was a definite highlight of their enrichment week. Joel has been invited to return to the college in April, 2015 to work with a year 10 Creative Writing class and we are all eagerly awaiting his workshop....If you are seeking to engage students in poetry, equip them with creative writing skills or seeking to build their confidence, I would highly recommend booking Joel.
Rebecca Cattermole- Caroline Chisholm Catholic College
This is Poetry (Why I do What I do).
a school story by joelmckerrow
The boy can hardly look up from the page. He doesn’t want to remember that thirty eyes are staring at him, so he ignores them. Focusses on the tremor of paper in his earthquake hand. His right leg an uncontrollable jerking of muscle and bone. Sweat gathers on his brow though the room is still early morning cold. He slurs the words as they tumble from his mouth. No one cares. He hardly even makes sense at times. No one cares. This is poetry. It is one of the bravest performances I have ever seen.
The boy launches into his story and I know it all too well. It is one I have heard countless times before. It is punches and names and harsh words and the inevitability of feeling small in the face of all the supposed ‘normal’ people. He pushes his story out of his mouth like it never belonged there in the first place. Like it wasn’t meant to be his story. Like somehow he always knew he was larger than the box that it held him in. Yet it seems only now that he is able to recognise this. So he recognises this. He is angry. Angry at them. Angry at the world. Angry at his condition. He is autistic. He tells us that his brain doesn’t quite work right. He tells us that he wants to be normal. He tells us of the countless times people felt it their prerogative to tell him that he wasn’t.
His story ends on a note of defiance. I picture a mouse staring into the face of a cat. Perhaps even scarface claw, the baddest cat from my sons picture book. I see the mouse stand up on two legs defiant and proud and with a bellow of a squeak from the mouse the cat looks shocked and surprisingly scared and suddenly bolts in the opposite direction. The boy finishes the poem about his life. His cat demons, they bolt in the opposite direction. The class is dead silent. It is a moment no one wanted to break. Something profound had just occurred and everyone in the class room knows this. It is tangible. Sacred.
The silence breaks. As if on cue. As if timed to perfection. Every single person erupts into a barrage of applause. The boy looks up from his paper confused. A mouse staring now into headlights. He is not sure what to do. Where to go. So he just stands there and a huge smile breaks through. Ear to ear. He smiles wide and the class love this all the more and they cheer even louder and I stand at the back of the room and everything that I do becomes worthwhile once more. This is poetry.
The teacher tells me that the boy does not write in class. He does not participate. Not like this. This is unheard of. That he crafted his whole story into a poem and stood out the front of the class in this all-boys school and delivered it like this. This is a miracle. This is poetry.
The boy tells me that he has never told anybody his story in his life before. He has not told people of the years of bullying at previous schools. He has not told people of his fight for a normal life in the face of his autism. I tell him just how brave I think he is. I tell him that others need to hear his story. He agrees. The bell goes. He walks out of the room and I never see him again. This is poetry. This is my life. School after school after school. Story after story after story. Lame metaphor after cliched simile after just another rhyming couplet. And I love it all.
There is a rush that comes with standing naked (metaphorically) on a stage and bearing your soul to the world. There is a rush and a catharsis and a healing and a feeling like you could do anything. This is nothing compared to the moment when you see a kid you have been helping to find their words step-up and breakthrough like this boy did. It pales in comparison. This is poetry.
I remember the girl who wept at her Christian school friends for how they treated gay people. I remember the Year 11 boy who broke down as he told his all-boy macho classmates about his mothers condition. I remember the girl who told us of her rape. I remember the scared one who couldn’t even look up at me when we began and as we finished a few days later she was literally screaming her poem to the world. I remember the one with pink hair and poetic words that trampled upon my own. I remember the tears from so many teenagers pooling heavy upon the floor. I remember so many moments when the silence came. When a rowdy class of Year 8’s are brought mute in the face of their classmates bravery and vulnerability. I remember the breakthroughs. I remember the defiance. I remember the steel-toothed determination. I remember it all. I remember the tears that I have cried as I listen to story after story after story.
This is poetry.
This is why I do what I do.