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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Shoulders

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,
HANDLE WITH CARE.

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.

I have always enjoyed Shel Silverstein’s quirky humour. I also learned he wrote A Boy Named Sue sung by Johnny Cash. I knew he wrote many songs, but did not know that tidbit. And I too will write a book with my computer when I can think of what to write.

Silver Birch Press

Image

WRITER WAITING

by Shel Silverstein

Oh this shiny new computer–

There just isn’t nothin’ cuter.

It knows everything the world ever knew.

And with this great computer

I don’t need no writin’ tutor,

‘Cause there ain’t a single thing that it can’t do.

It can sort and it can spell,

It can punctuate as well.

It can find and file and underline and type.

It can edit and select,

It can copy and correct,

So I’ll have a whole book written by tonight

(Just as soon as it can think of what to write).

###

“Writer Waiting” appears in Falling Up, poems and drawings by Shel Silverstein (HarperCollins, 1996), available at Amazon.com. (And I recommend that everyone have a personal copy of this delightful book.)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chicago native Shel Silverstein (1930-1999) was a poet, songwriter, singer, cartoonist, screenwriter, and author. Other notable books include The Giving…

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To be of use

Yesterday, I spoke with a frustrated parent. Our little school thrived because parents contributed in meaningful ways to their children’s education. This parent said she was felt like an unpaid employee whose efforts were no longer valued. Now, she could have been just being nice, but she told me she felt welcomed and appreciated in my classroom.

When we ask people, of all ages, to do something they should feel welcomed and worthy of the effort they give. Marge Piercy wrote about this human need to do real work. We find purpose, worth, and identity in our calling. Voice and vocation come from the same etymological roots. We find voice in the work that chooses us. Real work calls us and makes us whole.

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

I know I am a couple of days late, but here is a great visual of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial with the wonder of his words.

First Reader

We experienced a good day today. We are writing fractured fairy tales which are parodies of the originals. Students turn the story around and rewrite it with a twist. One student explained that the boy who cried wolf was visually impaired and was the victim of pranks by the sheep. Another student told the story of the Billy Goats Gruff through the eyes of the troll. Would you like it if someone were clacking around on your roof? The handsome prince dumps the beautiful princess for the maid in Rapunzel so someone did live happily ever after. The kids have fun with this activity and we talk about perspective. What if I were the Big Bad Wolf? We learn to understand that life is revealed through many eyes and experiences.

Billy Collins wrote this poem which I think expresses the way we learn and shape our learning. Occasionally, we need to let go, just be in the moment, and experience learning. I think we did that today.

I can see them standing politely on the wide pages
that I was still learning to turn,
Jane in a blue jumper, Dick with his crayon-brown hair,
playing with a ball or exploring the cosmos
of the backyard, unaware they are the first characters,
the boy and girl who begin fiction.

Beyond the simple illustrations of their neighborhood,
the other protagonists were waiting in a huddle:
frightening Heathcliff, frightened Pip, Nick Adams
carrying a fishing rod, Emma Bovary riding into Rouen.

But I would read about the perfect boy and his sister
even before I would read about Adam and Eve, garden and gate,
and before I heard the name Gutenberg, the type
of their simple talk was moving into my focusing eyes.

It was always Saturday and he and she
were always pointing at something and shouting,
“Look!” pointing at the dog, the bicycle, or at their father
as he pushed a hand mower over the lawn,
waving at aproned mother framed in the kitchen doorway,
pointing toward the sky, pointing at each other.

They wanted us to look but we had looked already
and seen the shaded lawn, the wagon, the postman.
We had seen the dog, walked, watered and fed the animal,
and now it was time to discover the infinite, clicking
permutations of the alphabet’s small and capital letters.
Alphabetical ourselves in the rows of classroom desks,
we were forgetting how to look, learning how to read.

I can never pass up an opportunity to pass on Mary Oliver and her words of wisdom. She is a beautiful soul and poet. Her wisdom ad advice are always right on. At the end of the day, I can only save myself, but perhaps my example in this manner helps others.

Dr Bill Wooten

“One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice-
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations, though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen branches and stones.
but little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do-
determined to save
the only…

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Blessings

The retreat was a welcome retreat. It was a time to be quiet and still find one’s voice. A theme which resonated throughout the weekend was a sense of being spiritually lost and what we should do when that happens. Part way through, I recalled an outdoor education class I took during my undergrad days. An expert outdoors man, Mors Kochanski, spoke to us about being physically lost and he gave us the same advice as I walked away with this past weekend. When you are lost, find a place to sit down and be quiet. Sometimes I know what I need to know and I only need to sit down and be quiet. The wisdom is there.

Ronald Wallace wrote this poem and it reminded me of blessings I take for granted and help me to find my way in life when I stop and am quiet. I can do all those things. I only have to stop and be quiet.


Occur.
Some days I find myself
putting my foot in
the same stream twice;
leading a horse to water
and making him drink.
I have a clue.
I can see the forest
for the trees.
All around me people
are making silk purses
out of sow’s ears,
getting blood from turnips,
building Rome in a day.
There’s a business
Like show business.
There’s something new
under the sun.
Some days misery
no longer loves company;
it puts itself out of its.
There’s rest for the weary.
There’s turning back.
There are guarantees.
I can be serious.
I can mean that.
You can quite
put your finger on it.

One thing that came up at the retreat was the way we make life complicated and this poem used that word in it. We make our life complicated with our view of the world. Let it Be is also my favourite Beatles song so it was a great way to begin the week with this wonderful poem about helping each other out and sometimes just pausing and taking a breath.

lifessweetbittersurprises

There are different kinds of problems

Easy

Simple

Hard

Complicated

It can come just around the corner

It can be from someone

or No one at all

It can be solved at an instance

on its own

or might need a couple of helping hands

And there are problems that seems impossible to deal with

Now.

“And when the night is cloudy there is still a light that shines on me
Shine until tomorrow, LET IT BE

…There Will Be an Answer, LET IT BE…”

(I also love this Let It Be cover by Angie Vasquez.)

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Where I’m Headed

It was an excellent first part to the retreat. We have a short session on Sunday, but already I feel replenished. I take prodigious notes at these events and do very little talking. I figure I talk enough in the classroom that this is a time to step back. I always have multiple notebooks on the go and the one I grabbed was quite well used. I glanced through it and found this from several months ago. It hibernated and is out for an early spring, I guess.

Where I’m headed

No planned routes

Markers do not set out a path

My GPS is non-digital.

This is adventure

Being lost has panache

A flair

It exhilarates.

I discover wonder

The I don’t knows fill life

They summon me

They make me whole.

I enjoyed this poem immensely. It was great preparation for the retreat this weekend, a gentle reminder to be still and enjoy the moment.

Worldly Winds

English: Kwan Yin - Chinese goddess of mercy &...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remember not

to forget

to remember

close your eyes

breathe in

breathe out

close your eyes

the silence brings

remembrance

not to forget

to remember

 

 

© Remember Remember 17.01.2013

 

by Alexandra Carr-Malcolm

English: Kwan Yin – Chinese goddess of mercy & compassion Statue of Kwan Yin in the grounds of Greenway House (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

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