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I registered to attend David Whyte’s retreat called Poetry in the Woods in November. His poetry speaks to my heart and the retreat is about being in touch with the heart.

I spent considerable time today talking about what I love: teaching and learning. I know I will miss each of them and want them in my life in some form. What I do not want is to be involved in teaching and learning focused on rules and not children. It is important for me as I enter this phase not to assume answers, but to be open to questions, particularly prickly ones. They are the ones I sometimes turn away from. I need to turn to them, receive them, and hold them gently.

I need to let questions find a space to emerge. which suggests less trampling through the forest and more quiet approaches. It is where the wisdom appears from, those questions which need my silence to be heard.


if you move carefully

through the forest,


like the ones

in the old stories,

who could cross

a shimmering bed of leaves

without a sound,

you come

to a place

whose only task

is to trouble you

with tiny

but frightening requests,

conceived out of nowhere

but in this place

beginning to lead everywhere.

Requests to stop what

you are doing right now.


to stop what you

are becoming

while you do it,


that can make

or unmake

a life,


that have patiently

waited for you,


that have no right

to go away.


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.

28 responses »

  1. This is so true…only in silence can we hear what we need to. So beautifully and eloquently written! I love this poem…truly…

  2. Wow. This will stick with me.

  3. MicheleMariePoetry

    Have a wonderful time at your November Poetry in the Woods retreat! Good luck in your new ventures!

  4. How I relate…when I find those silent spaces where the questions patiently (and stubbornly) present themselves for my attention and consideration..

  5. Lovely–thank you. And yay for you attending David Whyte’s retreat. I love his work and am now going to search for information about his retreats-I appreciate the tip!

  6. Very important words. In our rush to find or do something or to get somewhere, we often don’t invite the full consciousness to be present – and we may miss the path we were meant to take. Beautiful post!

    • Thank you. The busyness of our times has blurred the lines and forced us to build silos in ways that take away from all our relationships. Your comment about full consciousness is part of the answer.

  7. Ivon, thanks for the poem. I agree that teaching when the focus is on the children, not the rules, is rewarding and the result is wonderful learning.

  8. Very True and Impressive. Thank you. Very Nice of you.

    If there is no stillness,
    there is no silence.
    If there is no silence,
    there is no insight.
    If there is no insight,
    there is no clarity.

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  10. This poem is so deeply moving on so many levels for me. Relating briefly to the teaching aspect, I taught for years and finally left the classroom to work with teachers and those becoming teachers. The message I felt called to deliver was that our students are people and we should be very gentle with the humanity that gathers in our presence each day. We can learn from them and they can learn from us. Subject matter can be a vehicle for growth as a human and learning should not be evaluated in the narrow framework of a standardized test.

    • I had a conversation the other day and we talked about the idea that content is less relevant today than the skills, habits, attitudes, dispositions, practices, etc. students will need in this century. Teachers are one of the critical role models children will need. I have had students and athletes I coached tell me long after the most important things were those that touched the heart. I am pretty sure you have many similar stories.

      Thank you for a wonderful and insightful comment.

  11. What an extraordinary poem. I found it deeply anchoring and periodically unsettling at the same time…so much like the adventure of life. I suspect it will haunt me for a while. Thanks for that.

  12. I love this! I was walking in the forest, with this thought provoking poem.

  13. Thank you Ivon! This is one of my favorites by David… I have the audio-book and love to hear him speak his poems! Very powerful piece… tomas ☼

  14. moiradeslandes

    The retreat will continue to be a re-treat for you! I had the privilege of being on tour in Western Ireland with David Whyte in June/July this year.


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