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Yesterday, a student grumbled about not liking Math. I responded by saying I did not enjoy it either in school. She looked at me and asked me why I taught it. I explained I am not a Math teacher which elicited a comment about how good I was at it. It all reminded me of the adage: “We do not teach subjects. We teach children.” Or that is what I should do.

I looked for a poem that addressed this need to be a teacher of children. It is a calling. I think of the teachers I had who enjoyed being in the classroom and they carried each of us gently. Naomi Shihab Nye spoke about this lifting up of children and learners. I choose to be a learner with my students. I owe them being able to teach them Math even if I don’t enjoy it.

A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.

No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.

This man carries the world’s most sensitive cargo
but he’s not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,

His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy’s dream
deep inside him.

We’re not going to be able
to live in this world
if we’re not willing to do what he’s doing
with one another.

The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.


About ivonprefontaine

I completed a PhD at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. Previously, I taught for 20 years and taught for 15 years in a wonderful hybrid school . My dissertation topic and research were how certain teachers experience becoming who teachers. For me, teaching is a calling and vocation to express who I am as a person. Currently, I am waiting and listening to what calls me next. I am an educator, phenomenologist, scholar, published poet, author, parent, grandparent, and spouse.

23 responses »

  1. May your students remember you as dearly as I remember those teachers who inspired, entertained, and showed respect for me and all of their other students. Sadly, they weren’t the norm, but they were great each in their own way. Thank you for being a great teacher, Ivon.


  2. very true, we teach children and we need to teach them well, not only in math but in being kind to themselves, others, animals, our planet. Great post! PS I hate math and it was hard to teach without the Teacher’s Edition! LOL

  3. A teacher is like a candle..burn himself out to light up his pupils’ future…

    I will always remember all my teachers, lecturers and presently I still am trying to give as much respect and love to all my lecturers…

    *my late father used to say this every time I’m back from my boarding school…”teachers are your second parents after me and your mama..give the same love and respect ‘coz from them are God’s blessings comes…

  4. My best coach (and one of my top educators) was my high school tennis coach. He knew nothing about tennis when he was hired. But he committed himself to learning the game. More than this, he knew conditioning would prepare us to outperform even better tennis players. He brought in top tennis players in the community as guest instructors. He even got some of us tennis instruction jobs for the summer through the parks department. In just 3 years, he took a team that had never even won 25% of their games to one that won over 90% and was state-ranked year in and year out.

    Good educators are good learners who inspire others to learn.

    • Tony, it is interesting you make that point. As a Canadian, I enjoy hockey. An American, Bob Johnson, never played the game and coached the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stanley Cup. It is amazing what you can learn when you are leaner first.

  5. A deeply touching, simple, to the point and effective poem.

  6. Certain teachers stand out for me. They loved what they were doing and they loved seeing the lights go on in our eyes as they did it. Beautiful poem, especially “His ear fills up with breathing. He hears the hum of a boy’s dream deep inside him.” Good teachers hear the hum of the dreams of those they share with. Thanks for a great post.

    • You are welcome. I am like you Don. I recall the good teachers so clearly and the roles they played in my life. It is interesting I do not always think of school teachers in that role. Some of my most important teachers were outside of school.

  7. That’s a great metaphor and so important to remember, as teachers. I try to remember that even when they annoy me, my students are human beings that need love and respect. One teacher can make a huge difference, in either direction.

  8. Wonderful post!

  9. LaDona's Music Studio

    Laughing. I’m married to a math teacher! He keeps saying it’s not the math itself, it’s all about learning how to think.
    Possibly if he had been my teacher I may have liked math myself!
    On the other hand, had he been my teacher, he would not likely be my husband 😉

    • I agree. We are preparing children for an uncertain future where they will need skills to navigate their world in increasingly complex ways.

      You describe the paradox of relationship in those last lines.

  10. I tried to find you through your Gravatar profile, but you weren’t linked. I am glad I took the time to find you through Google. You are an outstanding poet. I am an instant fan. 🙂

    If you need help setting your links to your Gravatar profile–where an enduser is led after clicking on your thumbnail within WP–I have an article on my site that is an easy how to.

    regardless. Beautiful phraseology.


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