My first Kindergartners are now 10th graders. Hard to believe, but true.
Recently, I had the pleasure of seeing one of them participate in the NJ Poetry Out Loud finals. She recited three poems. Each was filled with pauses, inflection, breath, emotion, and gestures, which drew me more deeply into the words and meaning of the poems.
My favorite was Undivided Attention by Taylor Mali. It’s a fun, and thought-provoking poem for an educator. An added sweetness was that I was introduced to it by my alumna!
If you’re unfamiliar with the poem, take a moment to go read it now. Especially if you’re an educator, read it — right now.
The whole thing is glorious. But, if you ask me, the most striking part is:
Let me teach like a Steinway,
spinning slowly in April air,
so almost-‐falling, so hinderingly
dangling from the neck of the movers’ crane.
So on the edge of losing everything.
Let me teach like the first snow, falling.
(Mali. Taylor. “Undivided Attention.” What Learning Leaves. Newtown, CT: Hanover Press, 2002. Print. (ISBN: 1-‐887012-‐17-‐6)
As I listened to my alumna recite the poem, I imagined the educator asking permission of her administrators, coordinators, and colleagues to allow her teach in this fashion. As I listened, I heard her imploring others to share her vision.
Later that day I read the poem to myself, and then aloud to others. I heard it differently. I’m not completely sure why.
Perhaps I heard it differently because it was my own voice that spoke the words. Or, perhaps it was because Mali’s words had been floating in my brain since the morning, somehow becoming my own.
“Let me teach like the Steinway …so almost-‐falling, so hinderingly dangling … let me teach like the new snow, falling.”
The word I heard, with soft, encouraging, invitation was me. It felt like a quiet manifesto.
Much like the piano movers I need to move my personal Steinways. My Steinways are lessons, ideas, inspiration, motivation, classroom culture, design experiences, creativity, and much more. Similar to the movers in the poem, occasionally, my eye-popping, jaw-dropping, risky, awesomeness has to hang out the window. Scary, but also a huge blessing, because, hanging out the window, others can see it, engage with it, and be excited by it.
First snow, falling, is nothing new, and yet each time it falls it feels new. The snow beckons all who notice it to come and look with long interested looks. It reworks the view out the window. It offers the opportunity for play, and the necessity of work. And, when examined closely, it reveals the marvels of each unique flake. That is a profound way to teach.
Yes. Let me teach like that Steinway — big, brave, bold, and fantabulous. Let me teach like snow falling — offering play and work, changing views, and surprisingly breathtaking wonders.
Let me …