My 8th Graders have just finished their Immigration Unit. During the course of the unit, they read, compare and contrast poems about immigration by Emma Lazarus and Thomas Bailey Aldrich.

I've written about this before.

Interestingly enough, the father of a couple of former students used to work for the Strawberry Banke Museum in Thomas Bailey Aldrich's house as a historical interpreter. In fact, he is one of two Thomas Bailey Aldrich interpreters in existence. A few years ago, he offered to come speak with my class in character.

This year, I took him up on it.

I also asked a colleague, who is a well regarded performance poet if she could recommend a poet who could stand in for Emma Lazarus. As it turns out, she could.

So, I invited both guests to come speak to my students in character, to discuss immigration. I envisioned it as a sort of Victorian Poetry Smack-Down. As it turns out, each guest was too polite and deeply interested in what the other had to say to describe this as a "smack-down"; it was more of a salon, which was probably a lot more interesting, anyway.

So, How Did It Go?

Pretty well. Both guests were used to performing in front of people, so there was very little stage-fright. Almost all of my students were well-behaved. The discussion was interesting. Brandi MacDonald (the poet playing Emma Lazarus) read a poem of hers about the Statue of Liberty that was simply dynamite.

Because our poet was not actually a historian and our historian was not actually a poet, we ended up splitting our time talking about Victorian society and the writing process, which, again, was probably more interesting, anyway.

My favorite part of the morning was playing James Lipton and asking Thomas Bailey Aldrich and Emma Lazarus the questions from "Proustian Questionaire" from Inside The Actor's Studio.

Here is the presentation in its entirety:
As always, your comments are appreciated.