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Words for the Wise – Partie Deux

Words for the wise was a product of an incident yesterday. I was left exasperated, exhausted, and feeling somewhat unintelligent. I calmed down and found the wisdom shared by Winnie the Pooh helpful in creating a new lesson plan for today’s poetry time, but, first, let me explain the back story from yesterday.

About two months ago, a student brought their scooter to school and was riding it up and down the sidewalk in front of the building we occupy. Our school is located in what was a commercial building our school division acquired. There is no space to scooter in the front of the building, because there is a sidewalk and a parking lot immediately in front of the building. Usually, both are busy so it is an unsafe pastime. Second, students must wear proper equipment i.e. approved helmet, knee pads, and elbow pads. The young man in question is proficient, or so I have been told, so he took the equipment rule as a problem. Frankly, I would to, if I was any good at riding my scooter.

Yesterday, another student brought their scooter to school. While I was occupied, two students, including the aforementioned young man noted, borrowed the scooter and rode it in the parking lot and on the sidewalk while others watched. I was angry; that is the polite way of putting it. I gave some students credit. They recalled explicit instructions about the conditions a scooter could be used i.e. equipment, supervision, and location. Others had forgotten, but it was more likely a situation they were not listening for any number of reasons. This morning I received an email from the young man’s parent saying he informed her he could ride the scooter out back. I am not sure where out back is, because there is no place to ride out back. He left out the equipment and supervision.

Listening, which I think is essential to being responsible for one’s actions and words, seems limited to what a person wants. We listen when we are motivated by words or sounds that are we want to hear. I think that might be human nature. We lack mindfulness and being in the present moment. As luck would have it, sitting on my desk was a William Stafford poem entitled Listening. We had a great conversation after reading it, reflection time, and sharing in pairs.


My father could hear a little animal step,

or a moth in the dark against the screen,

and every far sound called the listening out

into places where the rest of us had never been.

More spoke to him from the soft wild night

than came to our porch for us on the wind,

we would watch him look up and his face go keen

till the walls of the world flared, widened.

My father heard so much that we still stand

inviting the quiet by turning the face,

waiting for a time when something in the night

will touch us too from that other place.

Thank you William Stafford. Winnie, I was brave and strong enough to tell my students I was listening, but I cannot always do what they want. I simply do not have the power some days and am smart enough to recognize this.

About ivonprefontaine

In keeping with bell hooks and Noam Chomsky, I consider myself a public and dissident intellectual. Part of my work is to move beyond (transcend) institutional dogmas that bind me to defend freedom, raising my voice to be heard on behalf of those who seek equity and justice in all their forms. I completed my PhD in Philosophy of Leadership Studies at Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA. My dissertation and research was how teachers experience becoming teachers and their role as leaders. I focus on leading, communicating, and innovating in organizations. This includes mindfuful servant-leadership, World Cafe events, Appreciative Inquiry, and expressing one's self through creativity. I offer retreats, workshops, and presentations that can be tailored to your organzations specific needs. I published peer reviewed articles about schools as learning organizations, currere as an ethical pursuit, and hope as an essential element of adult eductaion. I published three poems and am currently preparing my poetry to publish as an anthology of poetry. I present on mindful leadership, servant leadership, schools as learning organizations, how teachers experience becoming teachers, assessement, and critical thinking. I facilitate mindfulness, hospitality retreats. and World Cafe Events using Appreciative Inquiry. I am writing and researching about various forms of leadership, how teachers inform and form their identity as a particular teacher, schools as learning organizations, hope and its anticipatory relationship with the future, and hope as an essential element in learning.

7 responses »

  1. Listening is an important (but sometimes forgotten) part of the communication process.

    • I agree wholeheartedly. It is an important skill to try incorporate into what we do in classrooms with children. Trying to be more mindful and present has helped me model what listening can be like. In a world of busyness, adults rush through this part.

  2. I’M SURE I’d have loved being present for your conversation about listening generally, and William Stafford’s glorious “Listening” particularly. In fact, having learned of your connections with Fr Richard Rohr, and with Parker J Palmer – one of my heroes and someone I very much hope to meet one day, and with John Dear SJ, and with Thich Nhat Hanh – I think I’d love to be present for pretty much any of your classes!

    A couple of years ago, in accord with my frequent practice of reciting a poem by way of introduction to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, I shared “Listening” at our Christmas Eve Midnight Mass here. You could have heard a pin drop. Indeed the poem (not widely known by many here at the time) became an almost instant favourite and so I’ve used it many times since.

    There’s a poignancy in it for me as I remember my boyhood years, leaving my own father pondering in his armchair (as he does still) as I wished him goodnight and headed for “the wooden hills”. But there’s so much more than just the purely personal, too. As with much of William Stafford’s poetry, and with his son Kim’s reflections upon his father’s life and work, there are an untold number of parables, perpetually unfolding in “Listening”. What a joy, today, to find this particular poem in your post. Thank you 🙂

    • This is the link to today’s meditation at There is a sign up for receiving the meditations on a daily basis just to the right and archives to the right on this page.

      I am grateful for your response. It sounds like I would enjoy your service. We have many people in common. I am just beginning to learn about the writing of William Stafford and, as I mentioned, it was a poem I read for my students yesterday as a message of responsibility.

      Take care and we will talk again.

      • Thanks very much Ivon. I’ve signed up for the newsletters and look forward to continuing conversation. May there be good listening in both our lives today.

  3. This is so beautiful and moving! Thank you…


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