Friday, September 09, 2011

Poetry Friday -- Listening

by Jean Valentine

My whole life I was swimming listening
beside the daylight world like a dolphin beside a boat

—no, swallowed up, young, like Jonah,
sitting like Jonah in the red room
behind that curving smile from the other side

but kept, not spat out,
kept, for love,

not for anything I did, or had,
I had nothing but our inside-
outside smile-skin ...
my paper and pen ...

but I was made for this: listening:
“Lightness wouldn't last if it wasn't used up on the lyre.”

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Listen to the poem, or print the poem here, on Jean Valentine's website.
Katie has this week's Poetry Friday round up at Secrets & Sharing Soda

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I'm working hard this year to listen well to my students. I want to be the dolphin beside their boat; I want to be like Jonah, listening from inside.

It takes focus and concentration to listen. It's one of the most important things I can do: really listen to them and really hear them.

As you can see from the photos above, I've captured some of the phrases my students have said so that we can come back to their wise words over and over again throughout the year. This year, the word wall includes their words along with the vocabulary words we're learning throughout the day. We have related their words to some of the read alouds we've shared so far this year -- "Let's just try it!" goes with the spirit of approximation in ISH by Peter Reynolds; "I think we should..." goes with with the team work found in LITTLE BLUE TRUCK by Alice Schertle; the whole idea of listening carefully before acting goes with RABBIT AND SQUIRREL: A TALE OF WAR AND PEAS by Kara LaReau; and I'm sure you know who the children echoed when they said "It's all good" -- Pete the Cat!

It takes focus and concentration to listen. Everyday life conspires to move me on to the next thing I will say, rather than letting me linger on the things my students say to me and to each other.

Last Friday, we listened in awe to our classmate from China. She and her Poetry Friday reading partners found a poem about the Great Wall of China (in J. Patrick Lewis' MONUMENTAL VERSES). She told us about the Great Wall, which she has seen firsthand, first in fluent Chinese, and then in broken, but passionate English. Her partners read the poem to us. We listened.

It takes focus and concentration to listen. It's one of the most important things we can do.


  1. What a great post. That was just the inspiration I needed on Friday morning...

  2. Loved this post, ML! Thank you for your words of wisdom and for reminding us all what's important.
    Have a great weekend!

  3. Your kids are so lucky to have you! And I am so lucky to have you as a friend and learn from you!

  4. What a beautiful way to catch the kid's words, and I love the connections with your read aloud. Excellent reminder to me to slow down and listen! Thanks

  5. "Lightness wouldn't last if it wasn't used up on the lyre." Yes... Thank you for this post, for showing how you're celebrating the kind, open words your students say. I think that if we really listen well in conferences and in our days, the people we know will listen to themselves too. Do you know the poem, "Fire" by Judy Brown? I think it goes well with your post for today - (You always listen so well to all of our posts!!) A.

  6. Great wall of phrases, Mary Lee. It's a found poem in itself.

  7. Love this post. Listening seems to be a dying art these days. Great idea to post the students' phrases, honoring their words, practicing what they mean.

  8. Very well said: it takes focus, concentration, and heart to listen carefully. It means going beyond one's self and allowing another person to occupy the space of your thoughts.

    I love the poetry and your sharing. I'm sure your students love you. ;)

  9. Yes, that's true. It can be so hard -- bringing enough of our attention to the person who is talking, when you have other things also calling to you.

    Speaking of attention-getters, I bought the first book of the Chaos Walking series on your recommendation. And stayed up too late last night reading it!

  10. I'm sure you're a great listener! Interesting post. I hope your school year is off to a good start.

  11. Listening is such a great goal. Seems easy, but I do get in the way of it sometimes. Thanks for the reminder.

  12. Loved this post! Loved the wall of phrases that your students use. It's ALL good!

  13. Perfect post to think about as I look toward a new week. In these first days of getting to know one another listening is so important. Thanks! Cathy

  14. What an amazing class you must lead! And what a gift to give your young students - simply listening with intention. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Anonymous5:29 PM

    What a wonderful post. I needed this today thanks for posting it.


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