Muse 20 with Shirley Jones-Luke

Though Muse and the Marketplace 2020 was sadly cancelled, we still want to share blog posts that presenters wrote about our theme “Imagination and Reality.” In this blog series we asked presenters to explore the boundaries between fact and imagination, and how each contributes to great writing. Here, authors have selected a passage from their own work, highlighting in green which elements came roughly from their direct experience, memory, or fact; while highlighting in blue which elements came from their imagination or speculation. In this post, Shirley Jones Luke shares an excerpt from her memoir-in-progress. 



When I first began teaching, I imagined it as a great learning adventure. The students would learn to comprehend academic texts and recite lines from Shakespeare’s plays. Visitors to the classroom would marvel as each student stood and quoted a line from Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet and Macbeth. I would stand to the side, smiling proudly as my students, Black and Brown boys and girls, spoke with an old English dialect. There would be applause and my administrator would give me an exemplary rating on my evaluation. It would be one of many
shining moments in my teaching career.

Sadly, reality often doesn’t match imagination. I have spent over fifteen years in the classroom instructing students in the fine art of reading, writing and critical thinking. In addition, I have had many battles in the classroom with students, and administrators over how students of color should be taught. My teaching style leans towards the creative. I’m an artist and a writer. I love books and poetry. I also use pop culture to engage students with academic work. So, there may be a lesson on onomatopoeia and Naruto or hyperbole and Grand Theft Auto.

[End of excerpt.]



I selected the above piece as part of my memoir-in-progress about my teaching. I enjoy teaching but as I reflect on my years in the profession, I think about the things I’ve gained and the things I’ve lost as an educator. I know that I’ve impacted a lot of lives, but my life has been impacted as well – positively and negatively. This excerpt is the beginning of how teaching has changed me since I began in the fall of 2002 till now.


Shirley Jones-Luke is a poet and a writer. Ms Luke lives in the Dorchester section of Boston. Shirley is an English teacher for the Boston Public Schools. She teaches ELA and Humanities at the middle and high school levels. Ms. Luke is also a public speaker. Shirley has spoken at events such as NABA Awards Ceremony and other conferences. Ms. Luke has an MA in English from UMass Boston and an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College. Her poetry has been published in several journals and magazines, such as Adanna, Deluge, For the Sonorous, Longleaf Review and Willawaw. In 2019, Ms. Luke is also an essayist and freelance writer/consultant. Shirley has attended workshops at Open Mouth, Martha's Vineyard and Creative Writers Workshop in Paris.

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About the Author

Shirley Jones-Luke is a poet and a writer. Ms. Luke also provides public speaking services. Shirley lives in the Lower Mills section of Dorchester. She is a Boston Public Schools teacher of English Language Arts. Ms. Luke has an MA in English from UMass Boston and an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College. Her work has been published in several journals and magazines, such as Anti-Heroin Chic, BlazeVOX, Cadaverous, Deluge, For the Sonorous and Long Leaf Review. Shirley has participated in conferences such as The Muse & The Marketplace, Breadloaf, Tin House and Voices of Our Nation (VONA).

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