Monday, August 7, 2017

A Slice of What Used To Be

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       I retired two years ago, and I write less and less of teaching. Mostly I have old memories, old "things I used to do". The best thing is staying in touch with former students! But here at the beginning of the year, I do like to share at least one thing I did that may be helpful. This is a re-write from a post several years ago. 

           On the first day of school, I wanted my class to know that this would be a year filled with reading and writing, and I wanted them to realize that they were the ones that would be driving the year. I taught a mix of 6th, 7th and 8th graders and many of you know that personal choice was a top priority for all of our students, K through 8. One of the things I did on the first day was to share a poem or a poetic quote to help us leap into the year. I gave each student a copy, they taped it into their writers' notebooks, and then responded to it. In that response, I asked them to make one secret and very personal goal for the year.  Although I never knew what those particular goals were, I would re-visit students once in a while to ask how they were doing with it, and if there was something I could provide that would help reach the goal? Obviously, it involved trust. There were other times that students created goals that I did know about, but I felt that trusting that they could work to reach a goal secretly was inspiring and empowering. 


            Yesterday on Facebook, Michelle Haseltine (One Grateful Teacher) asked for ideas of poems for 7th graders for the beginning of the year. Here are two poems I used often and shared with her, both by Eve Merriam: "Metaphor" and "Thumbprint", highlighting the concept of Tabula Rasa, or "clean slate" and the uniqueness of each person. You can find them on the web easily, and I suspect many of you already know them. There are others that might fit you and your class, but these two are favorites of mine. And here is another, some call a poem and others name it a quote, author unknown. It's inspiring to me, too, every time I read it. It calls for courage, venturing into the unknown, just what each student does every year. 
            Don't you agree that they're brave?

    As you journey through life,

          choose your destinations well,
          but do not hurry there.
          You will arrive soon enough.
          Wander the back roads and forgotten    
                paths,
          keeping your destination
          like the fixed point of a compass.

          Seek out new voices, strange sights,
          and ideas foreign to your own.
          Such things are
          riches for the soul.
          And if, upon arrival,
          you find that your destination
          is not exactly as you had dreamed,
          do not be disappointed.

          Think of all you would have missed
          but for the journey there.
          and know that the true worth
          of your travels lies not in where
          you come to be at journey’s end,
          but in who you come to be

          along the way.
          
                anonymous

        Best wishes as you all begin your journeys this school year if you are still educators. If not, the wishes go to you as well in your own unique journeys.

    27 comments:

    1. Great inspiration for the beginning of school found here, Linda. Let's have a rocking year of new beginnings.

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      1. Yes, even though I'm retired, I still get excited about starting "new" this time of year. Best to you, Carol!

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    2. Love the anonymous poem and its "but do not hurry there"...seems to ask us to both anticipate and bask...love it. What a special tradition, to have your student's set a personal , private goal. This instills such responsibility for one's own learning. Thanks for sharing your wisdom, Linda!

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      1. You're welcome, Maureen. The trust built in those first days sets a tone I cherished all year.

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    3. So often we are focused on getting to our destination and not what we see along the way. We miss so many learning experiences this way. I think as adults we realize this, but as students it is all about getting there the fastest way possible. The ;poem you share would be a great piece to have displayed yearlong in a classroom and referred to often as a reminder that without the journey we wouldn't reach the destination. Thanks for sharing, Linda.

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      1. Yes, it was displayed, and touched on again, Bob. It seemed so important to me to instill the idea of savoring the process as much as the ending. Thanks!

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    4. I remember when you shared this poem a few years ago. I printed it, cut it out, and taped it in my journal. It is still one of my favorites. I am not returning to the classroom this year and I'm beginning to feel a bit of that twinge as I see my friends doing so. I'm on to new adventures, but the return to school will always have a special place in my heart.

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      1. And now I hope the poem will support you in your new adventures, Jennifer. How nice that you remembered. It's been three years since posted! Thanks!

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    5. Two years!! Really? Even so, you always share with a teacher's spirit. One of the loveliest things to give the world. Thank you for the poem and the process. Something for our kiddos and ourselves.

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      1. You're welcome, Julieanne, and yes, final days at my school were two years ago. Time does fly!

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    6. I love the poem, the clean slate idea, the fact that you rewrote this and re-shared, and that you don't always write about teaching. Clearly you write from the heart. Lovely & uplifting.

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      1. My teaching days clearly are like the title, Fran, "what used to be". But I remember much that was wonderful in that time, and like to share some things that were important to me for students. Thanks!

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    7. I love this post of poems and the promise that the new year still starts in September. Happy Clean Slate.

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      1. Thanks, Anita, there seems to be a "clean slate" every day, a good thing!

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    8. I love Metaphor and Thumbprint (which was new to me when you shared it several years ago). And these lines from the anonymous piece you shared are perfect, no matter what season we are in:

      "the true worth
      of your travels lies not in where
      you come to be at journey’s end,
      but in who you come to be

      along the way."

      So happy to think about journeys and new beginnings.

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      1. Well, it is clear that I love the poem(s) too, Ramona. The process along the way feels important to notice, and isn't that a part of what we are doing, too, when we celebrate on the weekend? Thanks for being there along the path with me!

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    9. I love the last verse of Anonymous' poem...and the coda with which it ends. How marvelous to start the school year with that private goal, for which you may need your trusted teacher's help.

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      1. Thanks, Tara, I felt it was my work to help the students begin to grow while knowing they had a say in their lives.

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    10. What a wonderful message, Linda.

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    11. I'm so glad you haven't retired from your blog and continue to encourage those of us still working at being the best teachers we can be. Thanks for the poem suggestions. I hope Michelle makes a document of all the suggestions she gathered. It could keep me supplied in poems for the year.

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      1. I hope Michelle finds time to make that doc too. There were many wonderful recommendations. Thanks, Margaret.

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    12. You always inspire me, Linda! Thank you for continuing to share your wisdom into your retirement. I'm so grateful!!! I can't wait to use the poems and ideas you shared with me!

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      1. Here's a link to the google doc. It's not pretty, but all of the suggestions I received are there: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1_kxmYBx5TZTJqD-Jc_Lo3kV3cPV5DM-dD7eVu09Xre8/edit?usp=sharing

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      2. You are dear to get this done during this crazy/busy week of yours. Thank you, Michelle. I'm glad that I can help a little, and even retired, I still love reading what everyone's doing and thinking!

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    Having a conversation is a good thing!