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Undivided Attention

We set out tomorrow for a short trip tomorrow through the mountains and, hopefully, no snow. There will be snow. I hope it is not snowing.

A colleague recently introduced me to the poetry of Taylor Mali. He is better known for the poem What Teachers Make. That was a poem I had heard several times before, but could not have attributed it to a poet. Mali has great wit, clarity, and creates powerful imagery through his words. He was a teacher for several years and I think he would have been fantastic in the classroom building relationships with young people. I wrote about Sam Intrator several months ago and I think Taylor Mali is the kind of teacher he was describing in his book, Tuned In and Fired Up.

This poem by Taylor Mali spoke as the day unfolded. I need to be present for my students to learn. I need to give them my undivided attention so they can give their undivided attention to the subject at hand, perhaps that piano hanging eight stories up across the street. What could we learn that day?

A grand piano wrapped in quilted pads by movers,
tied up with canvas straps—like classical music’s
birthday gift to the criminally insane—
is gently nudged without its legs
out an eighth‐floor window on 62nd street.

It dangles in April air from the neck of the movers’ crane,
Chopin-­‐shiny black lacquer squares
and dirty white crisscross patterns hanging like the second‐to­‐last
note of a concerto played on the edge of the seat,
the edge of tears, the edge of eight stories up going over—
it’s a piano being pushed out of a window
and lowered down onto a flatbed truck!—and
I’m trying to teach math in the building across the street.

Who can teach when there are such lessons to be learned?
All the greatest common factors are delivered by
long‐necked cranes and flatbed trucks
or come through everything, even air.
Like snow.

See, snow falls for the first time every year, and every year
my students rush to the window
as if snow were more interesting than math,
which, of course, it is.

So please.

Let me teach like a Steinway,
spinning slowly in April air,
so almost-­‐falling, so hinderingly
dangling from the neck of the movers’ crane.
So on the edge of losing everything.

Let me teach like the first snow, falling.

About ivonprefontaine

I have been an educator for almost 20 years. Prior to that, I worked in private industry for 15 years, then returned to university to earn my education degree. For the past 11 years, I have been a co-creator of learning in a unique, progressive, alternative educational school of choice. Currently, I am engaged in a doctoral program at Gonzaga University in Spokane. A main theme in my learning there has been the roles of systems thinking, complexity theory, and organizational theory, and how they apply to education generally and the learning environment I share with students, parents, and colleagues.

20 responses »

  1. Excellent! My sister is a teacher and will very much enjoy this!

    Reply
  2. Have a safe trip and have fun being in the company of teacher and poet.

    Reply
  3. Do enjoy your trip, Ivon; I just know it will be very special for you both..
    Wonderful poem… :)

    Reply
  4. Have a wonderful trip Ivon, enjoy each day!

    Reply
  5. Ivon, I loved the post and especially the poem… Like a Steinway, awesome. Hope the trip is as beautiful as the post and the poem! Thank you for sharing them and the mind candy!

    Reply
  6. Beautiful imagery Ivon ! Have an awesome trip..

    Reply
  7. Love the word hinderingly.>KB

    Reply
    • It is one of those created words that adds something. It reflects the imagination of this great poet.

      Reply
      • I love when I have the chance to constructr a word that nothing else really fit the bill for. It drives my editor bonkers. He asked me one time how I could do it. I looked at him and asked him, “As an editor, how can you not do it?”

  8. The poem is beautiful! So much to ruminate in the mind…have a wonderful trip.

    Reply
  9. Pingback: Teacher as Transformer

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