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Tag Archives: Tuned in and Fired Up

Undivided Attention

We set out tomorrow for a short trip tomorrow through the mountains and, hopefully, no snow. There will be snow. I hope it is not snowing.

A colleague recently introduced me to the poetry of Taylor Mali. He is better known for the poem What Teachers Make. That was a poem I had heard several times before, but could not have attributed it to a poet. Mali has great wit, clarity, and creates powerful imagery through his words. He was a teacher for several years and I think he would have been fantastic in the classroom building relationships with young people. I wrote about Sam Intrator several months ago and I think Taylor Mali is the kind of teacher he was describing in his book, Tuned In and Fired Up.

This poem by Taylor Mali spoke as the day unfolded. I need to be present for my students to learn. I need to give them my undivided attention so they can give their undivided attention to the subject at hand, perhaps that piano hanging eight stories up across the street. What could we learn that day?

A grand piano wrapped in quilted pads by movers,
tied up with canvas straps—like classical music’s
birthday gift to the criminally insane—
is gently nudged without its legs
out an eighth‐floor window on 62nd street.

It dangles in April air from the neck of the movers’ crane,
Chopin-­‐shiny black lacquer squares
and dirty white crisscross patterns hanging like the second‐to­‐last
note of a concerto played on the edge of the seat,
the edge of tears, the edge of eight stories up going over—
it’s a piano being pushed out of a window
and lowered down onto a flatbed truck!—and
I’m trying to teach math in the building across the street.

Who can teach when there are such lessons to be learned?
All the greatest common factors are delivered by
long‐necked cranes and flatbed trucks
or come through everything, even air.
Like snow.

See, snow falls for the first time every year, and every year
my students rush to the window
as if snow were more interesting than math,
which, of course, it is.

So please.

Let me teach like a Steinway,
spinning slowly in April air,
so almost-­‐falling, so hinderingly
dangling from the neck of the movers’ crane.
So on the edge of losing everything.

Let me teach like the first snow, falling.

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