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I struggled for a few days with the overwhelming job, or so it seemed, of beginning to craft a purpose statement for the dissertation topic. Thankfully, my advisor told me to read and read and read the classics in education and the not so classic. I immersed myself in John Dewey, who I have read before, Alfred North Whitehead, who I had not read, and Ivan Illich, who worked with Paulo Freire. I am going to re-read Freire.

Last night, I fell asleep thinking about these people and woke up still thinking about them. As I got mobile, it dawned on me what happened and I recalled Mary Oliver’s beautiful poem. I don’t hold answers. I hold questions. Their eloquence lead me into life daily and the answers are often in the things I take for granted. I posted a re-worked purpose statement, based on just letting things percolate and doing some free writing, and one of my colleagues commented back that it was making more sense. Be mindful scholar.

Every day

I see or I hear


that more or less

kills me

with delight

that leaves me

like a needle

in the haystack

of light.

It is what I was born for–

to look, to listen,

to lose myself

inside this soft world–

to instruct myself

over and over

in joy,

and acclamation.

Nor am I talking

about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful–

but of the ordinary,

the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.

Oh, good scholar,

I say to myself,

how can you help

but grow wise

with such teachings

as these–

the untrimmable light

of the world,

the ocean’s shine,

the prayers that are made

out of grass?


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. In teaching and leanring, I am a boundary-crosser who understands moving ahead is a leap of faith. 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, boundary-crosser, published poet, author, parent, grandparent, and spouse.

14 responses »

  1. very good

  2. I have enjoyed all of the writers/philosphers/educators that you mentioned. I used to conduct a lot of professional development and would always quote Freire! I loved his “Pedagogy of the Oppressed.” I taught for over 30 years and, in some small way, I feel like I am teaching through my blog. Thanks!

    • You are welcome. I read Freire in my undergrad days alongside Parker Palmer. I find their words bring me back to ground and my roots. I regret not having read Alfred North Whitehead sooner. He is so easy to read.

      I find the same thing that I learn and teach through my blog.

      Take care,


  3. Oh – Mary Oliver…such a delight! It sounds like you’re starting to find your way with your dissertation. Best wishes going forward!

  4. Vicki (from Victoria A Photography)

    I think ‘percolation’ can lead to much stronger and clearer thoughts.

    Love the poem.

  5. Wonderful poem… your mention of Ivan Illich took me back to my dog-eared copy from the past !!!!

    • I had never read him before. I read Paulo Freire extensively and Neil Postman, This was an eye-opener. am not sure what role he will play in the writing, but he has given me much to consider.

  6. Is the poem entitled, “The Song of the Lifelong Learner?” LOL
    Great post.

  7. Love the poem.


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