Thursday, March 13, 2014

Poetry Friday: To Live in This World

image by Hugh MacLeod at gapingvoid.com


















Shoulders
by Naomi Shihab Nye

A man crosses the street in the rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and
south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.

No car must splash him.
No car drive too near his shadow.

This man carries the world's most sensitive cargo
but he's not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,
HANDLE WITH CARE.

His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy's dream
deep inside him.

We're not going to be able
to live in this world
if we're not willing to do what he's doing
with one another.

The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.



We had outdoor recess for two days in a row this week. It got up to 66 on Tuesday. The children abandoned their coats and jackets in heaps at the edge of the playground...and then it snowed again on Wednesday and windchill factors were below zero on Thursday.

Monday, as I stood watching two fourth grade tyrants run a lopsidedly unfair basketball game, I despaired. How can we possibly raise up a generation of world leaders who will find joy in teamwork, who will look out for the little guys, who will laugh with others rather than at them?

I don't have any answers, other than what I do every day and every year: I come back to my classroom with empathy, fearlessness and humor. The road is wide, but the only way to make our way down it or across it is one step at a time.

"We're not going to be able
to live in this world
if we're not willing to do what he's doing
with one another."


Kara has the Poetry Friday roundup today at Rogue Anthropologist.

24 comments:

  1. Love this! You're so not alone...I'm breathing alongside you in my frozen world...kids, cold temps, and brave, fearless teaching! Happy Friday!

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  2. Fabulous poem! Empathy--can it be taught? I sincerely hope so, because if not, the forces of power and greed will overpower us all. I always think that we should spend the first year of a child's education teaching the golden rule. "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." If only we can get them to stop and think, "would I like it if someone did _____ to me?", it could make a world of difference.

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  3. Thank you for this! The image, the poem and your thoughts--Keep doing what you're doing!

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  4. It's a great question, Mary Lee. My kids have counselors who come into the classroom every year to talk about bullying, and I'm not sure those programs are very helpful. It seems like something you need day in, day out. Thanks for the poignant poem.

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  5. It's hard not to despair sometimes. Poems like this one help, don't they? I think teaching poetry in the classroom helps teach empathy and compassion.

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  6. Sending good thoughts out into the world today and every day!

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  7. Thanks for this thoughtful, caring post. Love the poem and your words about the importance of empathy and fearlessness. I hold out hope that each small kindness will beget another.

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    1. Jama,
      I'm making a sign to go over my computer, "Each small kindness will beget another." both for the giver and the receiver. Well said, and an inspiration. Thank you.

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  8. What a lovely poem, and what thoughtful comments. Thank you for the reminders about empathy, fearlessness, and humor. And for trying every day, every year.

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  9. I hear that you care very much, Mary Lee, and hope that all teachers, and others who work with children do as well. The poem says important things-best wishes to you with your children at school, one child at a time?

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  10. Mary Lee,
    Thank you for sharing this beautiful poem by Naomi Shahib Nye. I love her poetry.
    Have you considered that part of the problem of "plays well with others," may come from the fact the fact that we haven't first learned how to be at peace with ourselves? My mother thought it was very important for children to learn how to entertain themselves. That "alone" time seems to be disappearing from children's lives.

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  11. Oh, another poem from one of my favorite poets. It's so true and it's despairing to see how others treat one another. It reminds me of a new project that I believe Oprah has of saying hello to people. That people just want to be acknowledged..

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  12. PS. Love the graphic!

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  13. Full of wisdom. We must continue to promote kindness. It only takes a spark. Thanks for spreading a little light along the way.

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  14. Wonderful poem and wonderful thoughts:
    I come back to my classroom with empathy, fearlessness and humor.
    What a gift for your students.

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  15. I saw this in the Daily Five newsletter on Friday. It resonates:

    "Sarah Brown Wessling, 2010 National Teacher of the Year said:

    I really hate disappointing people. In fact, I'll usually go to great lengths to avoid doing so, but there's one occasion I just can't escape. It's when someone-a teacher, parent, policy maker-comes up quietly and gently and asks me about teaching. "What's your secret?" And they're disappointed. Every time. The secret is that there isn't a secret to good teaching. The secret is that I'm not a great teacher every single day, that sometimes I'll toil for a whole year and see very little growth with a student. But if there's one thing I know for sure, it's that I'm deliberate, I'm tenacious, and I look at every student with infinite hope."

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    1. What? There's no secret? Just this, "if there's one thing I know for sure, it's that I'm deliberate, I'm tenacious, and I look at every student with infinite hope."

      Thanks for sharing this glimpse at the secret. :o)
      Cathy

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  16. What a wonderful poem and personal/professional connection!

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  17. Thank you for caring so much. A beautiful poem.

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  18. Mary Lee, your post perfectly reflected my week, my thinking, my doubts. Loved how you connected the poem to your work. The previous comments have also helped me remember that other years are better - when it does not seem to be a constant theme in class meetings.

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  19. We can only read poems like Naomi Shihab Nye's and open our kids' hearts to the message.... this is one of favorite Nye poems.

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  20. Mary Lee,
    I think this stanza just will stay with me for awhile:

    "His ear fills up with breathing.
    He hears the hum of a boy's dream
    deep inside him."

    Cathy

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  21. I could have sworn I commented on this, Mary Lee. I think my computer was attacked by a comment-gobbler yesterday! I love this poem and I have asked myself the same questions. But I keep looking at my students with "infinite hope." Thanks for sharing!

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  22. Wow...thanks for sharing this poem, your thoughts, and your work in the classroom. This world is a better place because of you - and poetry. = )

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