Friday, May 02, 2008

Poetry Friday -- Work

by Robert Frost

I went to turn the grass once after one
Who mowed it in the dew before the sun.

The dew was gone that made his blade so keen
Before I came to view the leveled scene.

I looked for him behind an isle of trees;
I listened for his whetstone on the breeze.

But he had gone his way, the grass all mown,
And I must be, as he had been—alone,

"As all must be," I said within my heart,
"Whether they work together or apart."

But as I said it, swift there passed me by
On noiseless wing a bewildered butterfly,

Seeking with memories grown dim o’er night
Some resting flower of yesterday’s delight.

And once I marked his flight go round and round,
As where some flower lay withering on the ground.

And then he flew as far as eye could see,
And then on tremulous wing came back to me.

I thought of questions that have no reply,
And would have turned to toss the grass to dry;

But he turned first, and led my eye to look
At a tall tuft of flowers beside a brook,

A leaping tongue of bloom the scythe had spared
Beside a reedy brook the scythe had bared.

The mower in the dew had loved them thus,
By leaving them to flourish, not for us,

Nor yet to draw one thought of ours to him.
But from sheer morning gladness at the brim.

The butterfly and I had lit upon,
Nevertheless, a message from the dawn,

That made me hear the wakening birds around,
And hear his long scythe whispering to the ground,

And feel a spirit kindred to my own;
So that henceforth I worked no more alone;

But glad with him, I worked as with his aid,
And weary, sought at noon with him the shade;

And dreaming, as it were, held brotherly speech
With one whose thought I had not hoped to reach.

"Men work together," I told him from the heart,
"Whether they work together or apart."

It's the season of change in our corner of the public school world: retirement parties, grade level changes, voluntary and involuntary transfers, next year's class lists. We've worked together; now we'll work apart.

After 8 years of looping from 4th to 5th grade, spending two years with each group of children, I have come to rest in 4th grade. I'm not quite sure yet how I feel about that: I'm not a sprinter; I do better with long distances and a slower steady pace. As "the looper," I've had an extraordinary amount of autonomy. I've always worked at the edge of my grade level. Together, but slightly apart. This year we tested a couple of models of instruction that required exceptional collaboration and cooperation. Intensely together. (And amazing results.) It was good to come in from the edge.

It's also the season of achievement testing. I can't seem to step far enough back from the testing to see whether the tests are helping us to work together or driving us further apart. I'm not even sure I know who the "us" is -- building? district? state? nation?

But most of all, it's Friday. And no matter what kind of chaos in my life has prevented me from blogging all week, I find that, increasingly, I always have time for a Poetry Friday post. Bloggers work so very far apart, and that, I think, makes the work we do together all the more invaluable. I am SO looking forward to the "tall tuft of flowers" your "scythe" will spare!

The round up this week is at Big A little a.


  1. Lovely poem. Appreciated your thoughts, too. Thank you!

  2. This poem is one of the reasons I love Frost so much. Every time I spare a dandelion from the weed killer I think of this poem and that butterfly.

    You brought it around to today's work so well too:

    ...looking forward to the "tall tuft of flowers" your "scythe" will spare...

    Well said!

  3. Oh how I love Frost. Wonderful choice for the occasion, I think. I hope you find happiness in the fourth grade. Try to make it through the testing (M just completed hers; she's in 7th grade. How I hate these darn standardized tests.)

  4. I appreciate your thoughts as well as the poem. This time of year is all about changes for all of us as the school year winds up. I love grade 4 students and hope my new assignment includes them.

    I hadn't heard this Frost poem before. Thanks for it!

  5. We've posted about collaboration this week as well. I think it's on my mind as I wind down the year and reflect upon what next year will bring. Thanks for this.

  6. I'm glad you always make time for Poetry Friday posts, and especially, this one. Frost said it well, but you bring it home: we sustain each other.

    Re:looping. It works well for "long haul" students, too. My son doesn't really like new things, so for him, looping 1st and 2nd grades was ideal.

  7. I can't help but think you've just traded one gift (the joy of looping) for another (the joy of "coming in from the edge" and having intensive collaboration). In the best of all worlds, you could have both. But, how fortunate that you could have either!

    On another note, I am soooo done with achievement testing -- I just want to teach, watch kids grow and learn, and have fun in the process. That was a grueling week!


We welcome your contribution to the conversation!