Inspiring Children To Write

Staff Report

The acclaimed and award winning performance poet, and Fayetteville resident, Clayton Scott, travels throughout Arkansas using poetry to teach creative writing and presentation skills in a weeklong residency for schools.

After ranking in the top 10 percent of slam poets in the world in 2002, Scott was asked by Marc Smith, the innovator of the Slam Poetry phenomenon, to join him at school presentations in Houston, Texas.

“As an educator, I watched and observed but saw something lacking.  Other than being spectators, the students were not involved.  So, I came back to Arkansas with a plan to produce the program that I now present almost every week of the school year,” he said.

In 12 rigorous years, Scott has taught over 150,000 students, and in that time period, an amazing 450,000 poems have been written by students second grade to seniors.

“Because of the creative freedom that writing poetry provides, I use it to teach communication skills in writing and speaking.  Creative expression, of any type, is most often awakened by inspiration.  When I spend a week teaching in a school, my goal is to not only instruct but to hopefully inspire students to find and express their voice,” said Scott.

Amy Braswell, the curriculum director at Chenal Elementary School in Little Rock nominated Scott for the award and also introduced him at the luncheon.

In her introduction, Braswell said, “Nine years ago, Clayton came into my forth grade classroom in Texarkana … After the very first day, my students were on fire for writing! … Every classroom experience with Clayton Scott is a professional development opportunity for the teacher.  He leaves us renewed and invigorated and full of new strategies and ideas to help us unlock the writing potential in each child.”

The success of his program led Governor Beebe to award Scott the prestigious Governor’s Award for Arts in Education for 2012. Scott received his award from Governor Beebe at a ceremony on Oct. 29 at the Peabody Hotel in Little Rock.


How did she know?
Mrs. Unrue,  first grade.
Make-up thick. Perfume thick.
Hovering as valley mist.
She didn’t do this with the others.
It was rote reading-
just “See Sot Run.”
“That was good reading, Clayton”,
she quipped–raspy tone on ruby lips.
“Now, read it again but this time
with expression, with feeling.”
I would never forget.
But how did she know?
She knew, because teachers
Know stuff.

How did Mrs. Mayor know
The effect of her playing piano
in third grade.  Head reared back,
big butt in rhythm on bench.
Feet working the pedals,
fingers playing the ivory melody
to shape my bones.
How did principal and math teacher,
Buck Wade, know
with cut-off middle finger.
Tap, tap my desk to stress the point.
Tap, tap my head to drive it home.
He knew because, see, teachers know stuff.

Principal Simmons said in passing,
“Clayton, you have the ability and talent
to do anything you set your mind to do.”
High school Junior English,
Bonnie Dage.  Second floor
with blossoms and fresh mowed grass
riding spring breezes in open windows.
Classmate, Fred, had a pet crow
who came for a visit
on the window sill.
Caw!  Caw!
Eyes looked at crow.
Eyes looked at Bonnie.
Eyes looked at Fred.
Bonnie looked at us.
“Clear your desks, students”
she opened a book,
read the Raven.
Poe became friend.
Bonnie became a hero.
How did she know?
She knew because teachers know stuff?

Senior year; I’m popular,
A track star, sixteen but locked up
in an emo-brazen cage
with a long history of unattended sorrow.
Thought poetry was stupid and inaccessible.
But that year the principal and teachers
invited a guest speaker to school-a poet.
A poet?
The hippy looking dude sat in a chair
on the auditorium stage,
read poems, played music and urged
“Write poetry, man.”
I sat with arms folded unimpressed and uninspired.
Something surreptitiously and magically silent
transcended as time-released
spoken phrase became fairy poetic dust.
That night for the first time in my life
I wrote poems.
A key turned the lock.
Pain found pen to page.
Creativity discovered channel to run.
And run it did.
How did they know?
How did the poet know?
The teachers and principal know?
They knew because givers know stuff.

Confidence picking up the pace.
College freshman English.
Professor, Con Hood,
emphasized to let journaling
take the forms of poetry and prose.
“Just write!” he preached.
“Be free to create! Just write!”
he pounded like the carpenter
hammers a 16 penny nail.
How did he know
that healing would come through writing,
that love for language
would take to wing?

Today, this vagabond
warrior poetboy hopes and prays
that one day a student
who sat in my classroom,
or workshop or performance will walk
up to me and say,
“Clayton, how did you know?”
I will look deeply in his or her eyes,
smile in silence
and know.

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