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Learning is the Thing for You

I told students, when I learned something new, I was going home to tell my wife. I unsure they believed me, but, often, I would go home and tell Kathy what I had learned or a particular frustration from the day. Often, the latter led to learning.

T. H. White, in this excerpt from The Once and Future King, suggests learning is a universal solvent for what ails us at any given moment. It distracts us from worrisome, sad, and fearful things focuses on something right here in the present moment. It occupies our minds, fills our bodies, and feeds the soul of our being.

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlyn… “is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss you only love, you may see the world around you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then–to learn. Learn why the world ways and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured, never fear or distrust, and never dream regretting. Learning is the thing for you.”

I Am a Teacher

A student gave me this poem Thursday. The Alberta Teachers Association published it in their monthly newspaper recently. Susan Holland, a retiring teacher, wrote it. Is there such a thing as a retiring teacher?

The poem encapsulates many of my current feelings and points to the impact we have on children and families. The gesture of giving me the poem is deeply meaningful and I am grateful to receive and share it.

I Am a Teacher

You are my children.

We triumph together when you master cursive.

We struggle through long division.

I wipe away your tears when something bruises you elbow

Or someone bruises your heart.

You read to me—I read to you.

We laugh over silly jokes or stories.

I introduce you to new words—

You refresh me with new perspectives.

I wasn’t there when you were born.

I don’t tuck you in at night …

Or dance at your wedding.

But, you are my children.

And as June draws to a close

I grow melancholy.

You will move on and I will stay behind to start again.

And as the years pass you blend, merge, and mingle—

Warp and weft intertwined into my universal child.

I am a teacher.

You are the fabric of my life.

 

Sanctuary

I am beginning to feel the leaving part. It is hard after almost 15 years in a place that helped me find my voice as a teacher, a learner, and, most importantly, as a person. Here, I watched young people grow and flourish. What I want to try to remember is the Buddhist understanding of departure. We take something with us from each experience and leave something behind. We are never fully gone from where we were or separated from those we were with. There is something indelible left on both sides of the relationship.

One thing that the leaving part has done is given me some words to write. That has been the gift of the last year: I find words in many places and experiences.

A true paradox this space-

Not always quiet–

Still a sanctuary;

In this space–

Refuge emerged.

We co-created

Learned together–

Grew as one,

Remained individuals

Not easy things to do.

Relationships flourished–

Built inseparable bonds.

In this rectangular circle,

Welcomed each others presence

Witnessed each others human essence

Called each others name

Called those names from the heart.

When we leave–

And, we must,

We look at our time together

Look back with reverence

With no regret.

Silver Star

William Stafford wrote this wonderful poem. Today, as I wondered what I should post, I came across it. It is weird in a way, but I am rarely concerned with what people think about me. More accurately, I do not place much emphasis in quantity. I prefer quality in my relationships, people who think of me for the right reasons. They care and their words are true.

People are aware I am leaving the profession. It is to hear words of gratitude from students and their families, including former students. I do not hear the whole world say, “Good job”, but I hear the right part of the world saying it.

To be a mountain you have to climb alone

and accept all that rain and snow. You have to look

far away when evening comes. If a forest

grows, you care; you stand there leaning against

the wind, waiting for someone with faith enough

to ask you to move. Great stones will tumble

against each other and gouge your sides. A storm

will live somewhere in your canyons hoarding its lightning.

If you are lucky, people will give you a dignified

name and bring crowds to admire how sturdy you are,

how long you can hold still for the camera. And some time,

they say, if you last long enough you will hear God;

a voice will roll down from the sky and all your patience

will be rewarded. The whole world will hear it: “Well done.”

Cutting Loose

Only four students attended today. These students struggle with school for various reasons. I think it is because they are cast aside by adults. They want adults in their lives to set boundaries and be real. I asked a student what he had learned after we completed a Math question together. He responded you are always right, meaning me. I made a mistake in my calculations. We laughed. I told another student I did not like Math when I went to school either. When adults lighten up and are genuine they make an impact on children who need help.

William Stafford reminded us to be genuinely human, cut loose, and have fun. Parker Palmer suggested: “Teachers live on the most vulnerable intersection of public and private life.” Yes, we are vulnerable , but children and adolescents smell the disingenuous when we are not authentic.

Sometimes from sorrow, for no reason,
you sing. For no reason, you accept
the way of being lost, cutting loose
from all else and electing a world
where you go where you want to.

Arbitrary, a sound comes, a reminder
that a steady center is holding
all else. If you listen, that sound
will tell you where it is and you
can slide your way past trouble.

Certain twisted monsters
always bar the path — but that’s when
you get going best, glad to be lost,
learning how real it is
here on earth, again and again.

Working Together

I read and heard about innovation several times over the the past few days. I was professionally developed yesterday and it came up again. The person indicated innovation is half-formed ideas bumping up against each other as we share them. I wondered about that, because it suggests we work together, collaborate, and recognize the interdependent nature of humans and the world they live in together. I rarely see this and I doubt a bureaucratic mindset is one that embraces those features of innovation. I read recently, and I apologize about a lack of reference, that it is not enough to show up. We need to do something when we get there. David Whyte summarized this beautifully in the following poem.

We shape our self
to fit this world
and by the world
are shaped again.
The visible
and the invisible
working together
in common cause,
to produce
the miraculous.
I am thinking of the way
the intangible air
passed at speed
round a shaped wing
easily
holds our weight.
So may we, in this life
trust
to those elements
we have yet to see
or imagine,
and look for the true
shape of our own self
by forming it well
to the great
intangibles about us.

Limericks

I started on the academic work last night. I was productive as I tracked down some books that I have in my library and added to the library with a book order.

Yesterday, we began our poetry unit at school. I enjoy it and I think, for the most part, the students do as well. They grumble a bit, but, when they start writing they are laughing. We wrote limericks. I wander around the room, talk my way through limericks, and write one or two down on the board. It is mostly off the top of my head and they are fairly rough, but the students get a charge out of it and realize not to take it too seriously. I wrote these two on the board and decided to share.

There once was a boy named Earl

He wanted so desperately to be a squirrel.

Allergic to nuts, his dream were dashed.

Distressed he wailed and his teeth he gnashed

That young fellow named Earl.

There once was a boy who loved basketball

Three-pointers were his downfall.

He went to shooting school

There he did rule

Today, he has fame and is in the Hall.

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