Friday, August 20, 2010

Poetry Friday -- First Day

In memory of my
fourth grade teacher
Faye Bryner

For the 32 First Days in your career,
and especially for the one we shared.

author unknown

and what are the important questions anyway
on this first day of school after a night of no sleep
wondering even fearing how this day will go and all the rest
hoping it unfolds neatly as lesson plans promise
probably not and in that thought works a hint of unreadiness
and a quiet panic that hovers through the black coffee
yet later when we gather in first morning expectancy
we do manage to breathe though not deeply
my years are useless I am as new here
when the bell rings as all those now looking at me
but what is this day and all the rest about
not of course rules and study habits or even
a bag full of knowledge somehow packed
in all those books tidy on each desk
rather an urge to know that pushes us into wondering
about clouds becoming raindrops
from another side of the world or why the flower
outside the window blooms at this precise moment
where the songs in my heart come from
and where they are going all those questions
not in my curriculum guide
but that I now see in a new girl who can't stay
in her seat and dances an interruption around the room
negotiates attention midsentence and at the end of my wits
tells me a story during lunch that is dazzling and profound
and in one brief moment I see her soul in love with imagination
that must move and wave and try to fly
and this is what I must relearn on this first day
that in our remembered self is an urge to create
I can look for it or not but my choice had better
be made with love and reverence for what we all want is to express
our unique genius no matter what
because that is who we are
and after all the only question worth pursuing anyway
no wonder the night is full of sleeplessness
this is a question of life nothing else comes close
I remember now why I'm here and frightened
and so in awe of this moment
and these children

To all the teachers who already have or who will welcome a new class of students in the next days or weeks, and to the family members sending us their beloved ones to care for and nurture and teach, and to our students, "alive with imagination" -- LET'S MAKE IT A GREAT SCHOOL YEAR!

Laura has the Poetry Friday roundup today at Teach Poetry K-12.


  1. Love your enthusiasm, Mary Lee! One of my kids will be in fourth grade -- I hope she has a teacher like you.

  2. Thanks, Tabatha! I hope your child has a fabulous 4th grade year! It's the best age (but I might be a little biased about that)!!

  3. Wow! That's all. Just wow. Our kids started yesterday but I'm sharing this with our teachers today.

  4. Carol,
    I knew you'd like it! I just wish I knew who wrote it so I could give proper credit and thanks for capturing the feeling of the first day(s) so perfectly!

    And it seems just right that you would share this with your teachers -- my staff has gotten to know YOU a little through your beginning-of-the-year posts about families and names. :-)

  5. Beautiful poem, Mary Lee. Going to send it off to my first-grade teacher sister now.

  6. What a wonderful poem! Thanks for sharing. Here's to good teachers everywhere.

  7. I'll definitely be sharing this with my fourth graders in a few weeks. There are so many great things going on in this poem, it will give us a lot to discuss. Thanks, Mary Lee!

  8. Perfect poem that captures all those varied first day thoughts. Thanks so much, and have a FABULOUS year, Mary Lee!

  9. What an inspiring poem! Wish I had read this when I was preparing my son for his first day of school years ago!

    Laura Evans

  10. Oh, yes! Yes!
    Blessings and courage to all teachers and children as they begin anew...

  11. Not to rush the last couple weeks of summer vacation, but wishing you a rewarding - and dazzling and profound - school year, Mary Lee.

    (Question: why are the first 32 days important?)

  12. Thank you all for your best wishes for all teachers! And your wish for courage, Amy!!

    Toby -- Mrs. Bryner taught for 32 years, so she had 32 first days of school. I shared one of those with her, but our relationship continued as I moved from being her fourth grader, to her former student, to a college student preparing to be a teacher, to a young teacher, and finally, to an experienced teacher. I am the teacher I am today due in part to Mrs. Bryner's influence throughout the years.

  13. ML, I love that you have your 4th grade teacher's picture! Great poem to share as we head into next week. Hope your first day is wonderful! After meeting most of my students today, I am very excited to start our community next week. I can only hope I influence someone next week in the way that Mrs. Bryner influenced you.

  14. Loved it... I have a sneaking hunch she was probably married to a farmer. Most of my Southern Colorado teachers were!

    I had three Danish teachers that were all sisters... Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Kimble, and Mrs. Hazlett. All sisters who moved back to southern Colorado to teach and help run their husband's farms.

    I close my eyes and I can picture each of their rooms... Mrs. Williams, Mrs. Cannon, Mrs. Henrie, Mrs. Bishop, Mrs. Lamar, Mrs. Smith, and Mrs. Bogart! K-6, all great women and all teachers that I so respected.

    I love first days!

  15. Such lovely thoughts as we all approach our first day of school. Thank you for sharing. It touched my heart and says so much about those special teachers in our lives.

  16. Wonderful poem! As I myself start in a new school this year, I must admit there's definitely many lines that certainly strike a chord.

  17. How beautiful, this captures the essence of what we do as teachers, what we think, feel, what drives us to teach and keeps us coming back--all the while, inspiring something creative within. Thanks for posting!

  18. I love this poem! I'm a teacher currently taking a break to stay home with my own children. This poem really takes me back to those thrilling first days of school. Thanks!
    And 32 first days! Wow!
    I just found your blog and I love it!

  19. Anonymous12:34 PM

    Love this and what a tribute to your teacher. I am sharing with my principal. Thanks.


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