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Birdfoot’s Grandpa

A student read this poem today as part of their Language Arts and we discussed the underlying meaning of the poem. It reminded me of a story I heard several years ago. I am unsure whether the story is true, but the underlying idea is one teachers should consider.

A long-time teacher went and sat in a small park next to her school each day during lunch. One day a colleague asked why she spent every lunch break in the park quietly by herself. Her response was “I ask myself whether I want to go back and continue to do what I do. So far, the answer has always been yes.”

Joseph Bruchac’s wonderful poem reminded me of this story. Similar to the toads, each student we come in contact with has places to go to too. It is what should motivate us each day to return to the classrooms we teach in.

The old man
must have stopped our car
two dozen times to climb out
and gather into his hands
the small toads blinded
by our light and leaping,
live drops of rain.

The rain was falling,
a mist about his white hair
and I kept saying
you can’t save them all,
accept it, get back in
we’ve got places to go.

But, leathery hands full
of wet brown life,
knee deep in the summer
roadside grass,
he just smiled and said
they have places to go, too.


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.

13 responses »

  1. Love this! My mind is laughing, after a rougher than usual day in the classroom, wondering, who are the toads and who is the Grandpa? Some days, I’m scooping up students out of the road, and other days the students are giving me a fresh chance 🙂

  2. Reblogged this on A Grateful Man and commented:
    This story touched me and I wanted to share it with you. Thank you yet again, my friend Ivon. Russ

  3. Beautiful poem, I love it! Thanks for sharing:)

  4. Pingback: Bestowing Awards | The Temenos Journal

  5. Just what I needed to see. Was trying to find a way to explain to someone why one would continue to do something when the odds of success are so narrow. Perfect post! Thanks. Peace.

  6. Pingback: why I feed the birds | Teacher as Transformer

  7. I too love this! Haven’t heard of the writer before this, thanks for introducing him . . . I’m not officially a teacher, but I realize that on some level, the living of each of our lives, whatever that may entail, doesn’t happen in a vacuum; and serves as an ongoing example — and yes, lesson — for others. Nothing goes unnoticed on some, say, plane of existence; no action is ever too small or even too private to make a difference.
    Yes, a wonderful post, Ivon.

    • Thank you. I used this poem with my students as a way to understand the gift of kindness and how we find meaning in life through, often, small acts i.e. saving toads from being run over. The poet, Joseph Bruchac, was influenced by his native American culture and its traditions of caring for the Earth and all its inhabitants.


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