My ode to the poetic greats and myself. Don't know why I have been thinking a lot of Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes and Paul Laurence Dunbar, maybe because their contributions shaped me and my inner poet. They have been a part of every time period of my life. When I was young, my mother instilled a love of Paul Laurence Dunbar teaching me how to recite his words and act them out. I can still recite with vigor his poem 'In the Morning.' In high school, I fell in love with the social justice poetry of Langston Hughes: his words, to me, smooth, but sharp. In college, I performed a dramatic reading of parts of 'Leaves of Grass' with a poetry group. I will forever remember the synergy of that experience.
Today, all those memories flooded back to me and I was overwhelmed and overjoyed. I could only write in response. This poem features my soul and some of the words of my poetic heroes.
I celebrate myself and sing
as the fallen leaves
give rise to a symphony of time revealed.
Life in various hues converge
laughs on grape and vine
remembering a childhood that drags black
festering like a sore, but never shall I forget
wearing the masks of grins and lies
where songs are loud but low
memories are sweet and change like
Tree firmed planted
seeds of a new song
of audacity and hope and awareness
The song of myself
inconceivable for some. Bold and brilliant!
speaking bliss to me.
I believe in you, my soul--the other I am
creator and being wrapped into one
healing ancient wounds still open to the flesh
Lover of me. Protector and provider.
wrapping me in the melodies of an eternal
Arose today bloomed.
You and I celebrate myself in all the golden hues of fallen,
It's my cardinal rule, sad but true--never, EVER, read the comments. Have you ever noticed that all the crazies, especially on Yahoo News, expose their lunacy in the comment section?
I tell myself 'don't even look; it's not worth the pain.' Yet, I broke my own rule yesterday. I thought it was safe when I clicked a beloved facebook page's comment section. The post was about teacher solidarity after all. I was sure the comments would be a rallying cry for educators, students and the community supporting the striking teachers in Seattle.
Enter Jeff's comments:
Punched in the gut. Wow! Are there people who truly still believe teachers are mere servants, sans the prefix public, who think "striking is a great way to avoid the struggle ...Your strike is taking up police resources. Hope the kids who are at home unsupervised don't need any assistance from police."
How much you wanna bet Mr. Jeff has never volunteered in a school to see some of the hardest working professionals in action: teaching, learning, consoling, grading, meeting, healing, hugging, loving, scolding, etc.
How much you wanna bet Mr. Jeff doesn't have teacher friends who always have to cancel dinner dates or decline party invites because they have too much work to do: always work.
How much you wanna bet Mr. Jeff can remember at least one of his teachers who inspired him through words or actions: real heroes.
Like many of the comment section regulars, he must live in an alternate reality. He does not understand the breadth of our work or our current educational challenges, but he thinks he gets it and that's dangerous.
I wish everyone was a supporter of education or educated themselves before they espoused erroneous beliefs, but alas all I can do is affect my little world and hopefully teach my students to be thinkers unlike poor Jeff.
Comments welcomed here:)
Dear End of the Year Teacher Self,
There are some things I need you to know. They're good kids and you're a great teacher.
13 is usually unlucky and dreaded, but count yourself lucky because you're done with your 13th year of teaching. I'm sure you are worn out and your view of everything may be shaded by the trials any years throws at you, but know you started this year with so much enthusiasm and optimism. You have no doubt made a difference.
I know because even this early in the school year your students come to class with so much excitement, and they even laugh at your jokes. They see that you are special and you notice the same about them.
They are probably now bouncing off the walls appearing more like apathetic freshmen than innocent 8th graders, but they were once bright-eyed, eager kids ready to laugh and learn.
I hope you take time to see those kids, not through the lens of a perhaps long year, but as you greeted them with a smile and puzzle piece on the first day of class. They believed in their part of the puzzle. They readily hitched themselves to you and held on tight for this year's long ride.
Undoubtedly, some of your co-workers have pushed every button and created some new buttons and double pushed those, but remember back to August when everyone was fresh and everyone wanted the same thing--what was best for students. Life happens to the best of us. They have probably had the same ups and downs that you've experienced. See them with fresh eyes. Embrace the brilliance you saw in them in September. Remember the lessons of theirs you've used and the time it saved and how it impacted your students.
You may be tired as you pace to the finish line. Your oldest is surely driving you crazy about going off into the big, bad world on her own upon college graduation. Your once snugly son has a deeper voice and enough body odor that even if he came close, you'd likely push him away. The middle child has assuredly caused more grey hair than you could ever count, and you're scared she's not ready for the responsibilities of junior year and taking the ACT/SAT. Heaven help you! Stop worrying. They have and will survive and thrive. They, too, are good kids who always make you proud.
Be proud of all the good you've seen and done this year. Teaching ain't easy, my dear, but it's so worth it. Finish strong!
Keisha in August
Documenting my evolution by filling in space and matter one word at a time.