• Interview

Getting to Know Cohort 5: Meet Janelle Tan

February 23, 2023 By Alesia Stradford
janelle tan

Last month, we launched Cohort 5, and we must say, our tribe members are incredible! To introduce our community to these fabulous women, we’ll be featuring each of our cohort 5 members on our blog, starting with Janelle!

 

Janelle Tan is a poetry teacher and founder of Ninth House, a poetry school for creative children in Brooklyn. Dive into her interview below to learn more about her, her brand, and why she decided to join our tribe! 

 

 

 

 

Janelle, we are so excited to have you in our tribe! Please tell our readers a little about yourself.

 

 

​​Hi everyone! I’m Janelle Tan – I’m a professional/practicing poet in Brooklyn, New York, and the founder of Ninth House, a poetry school for children. I love wine bars, restaurants, my friends, and used bookstores.

 

 

What inspired you to start Ninth House?

 

 

I realized that there weren’t specific poetry programs for children, and there definitely weren’t programs built around writers of color and queer writers. I started my career teaching in private schools, and realized that poetry education for me required a space where children could unlearn their conception of “right” and “wrong,” and just make things from their imagination. I also wanted to embrace a mode of poetry education that was interdisciplinary: pulling from conversations with my painter, photographer, journalist, songwriter friends, and turning those conversations into long-term collaborations that help children see poetry in a completely new way. I wanted to help children see poetry as playful, fun, and transparent, instead of an opaque group of words that had to rhyme. 

 

As a poet, I also noticed that existing programs for teaching artists don’t pay a sustainable living, and that there was an entire creative economy of poets and writers who weren’t being compensated for their expertise. I wanted to be able to start my own system: where I could create jobs for poets and writers to teach the thing that they loved while being paid equitably; where children could use their after-school or weekend hours to make art.

 

 

What is the most important value you want to instill in your students?

Play, and generosity for each other and each other’s work.

 

 

What have been some of the most rewarding experiences you’ve had as a poetry teacher?

 

 

In one of Ninth House’s first school partnerships, I worked with third graders who had never had formal poetry education prior. Towards the end of the program, one of the children told me, “when I first signed up, I was nervous. What if I was wrong?” To which I said, “Do you still feel that way now?” – he said “I know now I cannot be wrong in poetry.”

 

At the same partnership, I was telling the children about Sonia Sanchez, and describing her as a professor, a poet of many books, and her illustrious career. I then showed a child a picture of Sonia Sanchez after teaching a tanka. He paused for a moment, and then remarked, “Oh, she has dreads too!”

 

My most important principle as an educator, shaped by my own teachers, is that I try not to tell children what they are doing “incorrectly” or “wrong.” I treat every student as a fully-fledged poet, to whom I simply need to say “this is working here – do more of this.” I try to give them language to talk about what they’re doing in their work, and what their work is gesturing towards. One of my students told me that she felt like I saw her, and that is what happens when you give children language to describe and make aware what they’re doing, as compared to telling them what is missing.

 

How do you hope Ninth House will evolve in the future? 

Ninth House is New York City-based right now, because that’s where I am, and that’s where I know families who believe in the power of poetry and language. Eventually, I hope to scale nationally by offering a hybrid video curriculum paired with in-person facilitation and instruction from practicing poets around the country.

 

Because equity is a core value for me, I hope to be able to offer several scholarship spots for BIPOC students in every class. I also hope to be able to offer independent studies and instruction for adults, based on the same principles of play and unencumbered creativity.

 

As a female founder, when did you realize you needed a community and how did you discover fylí?

 

 

As a poet in NYC, everyone I know is a writer, poet, painter, photographer, musician, etc. While that abundance sustains me fully in my creative career as a poet, I found that I didn’t have a community of entrepreneurs who could fully support me in building a company from the ground up. I had a lot of questions about big-picture things like growing the company and building a roadmap, and small detailed things like working for myself after full-time teaching. I needed a community to be able to answer those questions, and that could support me as an entrepreneur with a very specific idea for a company and a highly specialized skill set.

 

I discovered fylí at Hamptons Tech Week in Southampton in July 2022. I’m sure everyone from the conference remembers me as the one poet at a crypto conference, but that week was very expansive for me and Ninth House – I met contacts who I still keep in touch with, and most importantly, I met Cat and Jax.

 

 

We’re thrilled to welcome you into our 5th Mastermind cohort! What are you looking forward to the most over the next 12 months with your cohort members?

 

I’m most looking forward to having a supportive community who believe in a “tribe” mindset of succeeding and growing together. I’m looking forward to learning from everyone, and meeting the people we all will be in December 2023.

 

 

We believe everyone has a unique “superpower” that makes them stand apart from others. What is your superpower? 

 

janelle tan

 

My generosity and ability to bring people together. I’m very generous with my time, mentorship, and my network. Community is my #1 core value, and I’ve been told that I have an unmatched ability to connect people, and bring people together.

 


 

CONNECT WITH JANELLE TAN AND NINTH HOUSE

Ninth House

Instagram

Website

 

Janelle Tan

LinkedIn

 

 

Quiz

1. Are you an aspiring entrepreneur or started your business already?

A. Aspiring Entrepreneur
B. Started Business

2. Are you committed to a year filled with growth and accountability and have the time to contribute peer to peer mentorship to other community members while growing together year after year?

A. YES I have the time and fully committed
B. NO I have limited time and would prefer to pop in and out as needed

3. Are you open to travel and gathering in person for strategy sessions and events, or would prefer to be remote and fully online?

A. Open to travel
B. Virtual

4. Do you have a detailed business plan and strategy in place to grow your company even if you did not start it yet?

A. Yes
B. No

5. Are you willing to learn new skills, get vulnerable, and focus on accountability even when things get hard along the way?

A. Hell YES!
B. Willing to Try
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