April is National Poetry Month and my plan of sharing poems of significance to me fell to the wayside as life happened (or didn’t happen).
Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is a Thing of Feathers” was the first post, and now I am ending the month with Mary Ruefle’s “The Hand” as a tribute to students, teachers, the general education community. I miss being in the classroom.
The teacher asks a question. You know the answer, you suspect you are the only one in the classroom who knows the answer, because the person in question is yourself, and on that you are the greatest living authority, but you don’t raise your hand. You raise the top of your desk and take out an apple. You look out the window. You don’t raise your hand and there is some essential beauty in your fingers, which aren’t even drumming, but lie flat and peaceful. The teacher repeats the question. Outside the window, on an overhanging branch, a robin is ruffling its feathers and spring is in the air.
This poem is a poster that I place prominently in my classroom, to remind me, and to remind my students, that we all have something to share, yet if we don’t make that effort to speak out no one will know what we had to offer.
This poem has even greater meaning for me since I am now separated from my students and I am unable to hear their voices and we are unable to share our ideas with one another. Distance teaching provides learning, yet it’s in a vacuum since I am unable to interact with my students. They might be gaining knowledge through the lessons I send out to them; however, how are they receiving that knowledge, what it means to them is somewhat lost. Electronic response is not the same as seeing that hand raise and hearing their voice.
Yes, I miss being in the classroom. I miss my students.
Teaching poetry to a class of teens is almost intimidating as being the student learning the language of metaphors and similes and alliteration and such.
For one thing there is the DWA
factor–Dead White Authors.
Occasionally I detect a certain resentment of having to study the antiquated language and suspect ideas of people who lived in times current adolescents have a difficult time relating to, especially when many of these authors were among the 1% of their day. Understanding that religion revolved around one belief and not a myriad seems wrong to some of many students.
Getting students to remove their 21st century hats in order to not be hindered by Frost using “queer” when describing how the speaker’s horse thinks it’s strange to stop in the middle of the woods is a little challenging but not insurmountable.
Another challenge is getting students to embrace poetry as a necessity. Actually, for that concern I have a ready reply:
If you can figure the meaning of a poem and explain it in such a way it is comprehensible to others, you will no doubt succeed in other endeavors in life, such as presenting a new scientific concept to your co-workers or even putting together that bike in a box for your kid some day.
I do sympathize with my students about the saturation of 18th and 19th century poems we tend to study, especially in AP Literature. This is why I subscribe to services that provide a poem everyday. It’s like those word a day subscriptions except more words and they sometimes rhyme.
Over the past few years I have amassed quite a collection. Now what? Aha! I pulled together a monthly menu and created a PPT what I call the PAD–Poem A Day. While I take attendance, students read the poem on the projector screen and then discuss some aspect. Most of these poems are contemporary and the topics, as well as formats, tend to be more relatable for my students.
The other day we covered Robert Bly’s moon poem. I then had students find three objects in the room and describe them in a new way. The best one involved calling our box fan a meditation counselor since it had the ability to provide a cooling off whenever we were heated up. Nice.
I remember Robert Frost and his puzzled horse in fifth grade and I have taught it to my tenth graders and seniors. I’m hoping once we have chatted about meaning and metaphor they will think poetry is lovely as they move through life. My hope is they’ll carry a verse in their pocket or be able to pop out a ready line to fit any occasion.
There are so many lists out there dealing with resolutions of sorts these days: Buckets, Blessings, Brags, and I toss out my own B.I.G. (“Before I Get–too old, too lazy, too nervous…)
I think I’m on to a new kind of list. Instead of a wish list or a hopeful list or even a done it list, I’m starting a “Well, I Never and Glad of It List.”
Truthfully, aren’t there some things you’ve never done, and you are glad you haven’t?
Here are a couple of starters for me:
The first admission is usually met with surprise or doubt and sometimes an offer to buy me a cup of java.
The second one is met with shock, and once with outrage. Devotees can be so sensitive.
The third often involves a knowing nod and camaraderie, or a puzzled concern, as if the person is in the company of a technological dinosaur.
The fourth is tricky as it involves which age group I’m talking to, since tattoos are seen differently by different generations.
Of course there are some “Well, I nevers” I shall never contemplate:
I have rediscovered The Giver.
When it arrived on the scene in 1993 I was not an impressionable YA reader. No, I was a thirtysomething wife/mom/librarian and read books no matter what age they were intended for. Hmm. the only thing that’s changed is my age and the fact that I’m a librarian at heart while teaching English.
Like most readers, I felt a bit cheated at the ending. It was not neatly wrapped up and presented as a conclusion of satisfaction. Ambiguity can be quite frustrating, yet that’s one reason why The Giver is so memorable. We all want to know what happened to Jonas. Having rediscovered The Giver through watching the 2014 film led me to discover the other books in the series: Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son. And here I thought all these years that the story ended with that famous sled ride.
Apparently it took twenty years for the book to become adapted to the screen. Jeff Bridges bought the rights and had originally wanted his father Lloyd to play the part of Giver. It didn’t happen, but viewers can watch a family reading of The Giver as one of the special features selections on the released DVD. Having finished reading the entire quartet I am smitten with the entire story. I hope there is a continuation of the series since each adds to the overall understanding of Jonas’s world.
An added bonus to rediscovering The Giver was reading the latest edition which contains author Lois Lowry’s twenty year reflection of The Giver’s impact.
A goal for this year: revisiting novels, particularly juvenile and YA novels, to gain a different perspective and insight.
Anyone interested in doing the same?
My latest spotlight is on another blogger whom I’ve exchanged commentaries since the beginning of my blogging foray.
In his own words:
Everyone calls me Ste J.
I am an obsessive book creature, in fact I spend more time between the (book) covers (I read in bed as well though) than I do with ‘real’ people.
Which means I probably spend more time with you guys than anyone else. Feel privileged.
Ste J is a bona fide bibliophiliac. He loves books. That’s a bonafide fact. Proof: he once read 100 books in 362 days, just to see if he could do it. His blog is neatly organized into genre and with a mere click, a person can investigate reviews and titles. His tastes are eclectic, his insights meaningful, and his replies clever.
For a sampling of his classics page, click here.
Lately, his posts have wandered a bit off the original track of being primarily bookish in content and he writes on whim. I can relate. I too have strayed from my original intent of providing astute book reviews that would dazzle and benefit bookdom and have taken to writing as serendipity taps the muse.
So, I hope you will check out Book to the Future and meet the intrepid Ste J, where as his banner states “more book than a mad ‘orse.”
Lately I’ve been noticing more and more products are sporting bits of wisdom as part of the package.
The first notice came with my occasional binges on Dove Dark Chocolate Bites. It took me a wrapper or two to realize pithy little “promises” hid within. For instance, “Encourage Your Sense of Daring” and “Smile Before Bed. You’ll Sleep Better” are two gems. I started calling these my chocolate fortune cookies and began collecting them. If you are trying to cut down on chocolate–I know I need to– *GaSp* did I really just say that?–you can unwrap a few calorie free promises at https://www.dovechocolate.com/epromise.
Recently I discovered Honest Tea and upon popping open the cap I found some great quotes. What I really like is the variety:
Finding bits of wisdom on drink caps probably isn’t too unusual, after all you can often find prizes and such depending on the drink. But what really surprised me was finding “A Pep Talk in Every Drop” as I popped a cough drop. I’m not much in the habit of caring about getting inspired when my throat’s scratchy. Although it probably isn’t so bad to make people feel good when they are feeling bad. Would these words cheer you up once your cough in under control:
I think when I’m done teachering I will look into wrangling up a job for some company supplying these pity bits of wisdom. Hmm, I wonder how I find that listing at Linked In–“Wisdom generator available–light and deep bits created upon request.”
Any other bits or promises hiding out there?