Teachers often wonder about their true impact on students. We have work samples, observations and assessments that help us gauge a student’s progress. But these can’t really let us know the degree of influence we’ve had on a student. And in many cases we may never know. We’re like mother turtles burying our eggs in the sand, only to swim away and hope for the best.
But then there are moments when the stars align and magic happens. This morning I was working with a 5th grade student whom I’ve worked with to varying degrees since first grade. He’s quiet and shy, but very sweet. He’d rather play soccer than anything else, especially read. He read the first few lines in The Amazing Amazon, by David Meissner, (Reading A-Z) then stopped. Looking up at me, he said, “It’s like a poem.”
I. was. speechless. Recovering quickly, I said, “I agree.” I asked why he thought so. Again, his response blew me away.
“Well, it rhymes and it’s describing. It’s like I can see it.”
As I said, magic. Here is the poem E found.
“There Is a Place”
There is a place where monkeys swing and howl. There is a place where jaguars leap from tree to tree. Bananas and pineapples grow for free. Tiny frogs live in flowers. Pink-colored dolphins swim in the river. Storms come often, and the air is sweet.
Please be sure to visit Tara Smith at A Teaching Life for the Poetry Friday Roundup.
I didn’t make it to all the Poetry Friday posts over the weekend. I rarely do, despite my best intentions. But the posts I did read were, as usual, full of beauty and inspiration. Jama Rattigan shared Mary Oliver’s breath-taking poem, “Messenger.” (Read it here.) These lines have been in my head all weekend:
“… Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
We owe it to the world to “be astonished” and “give shouts of joy” about the beauty that surrounds us. As I was walking to my classroom this morning, I looked out the window and was astonished by the beauty of fallen cherry blossoms.
Scattered by the wind,
cherry blossoms dart and dance
across the playground
I also appreciated Brenda Harsham’s interview with Irene Latham. Both of these smart women inspire me, but I really appreciated Irene’s advice to “just WRITE. Even if all you have is fifteen minutes, just do it.” Why do I need to be reminded of this constantly? At this time of year, though, it seems especially important to find those quiet moments amid all the hubbub, both for our students and ourselves. Recent research “suggest[s] that short doses of nature—or even pictures of the natural world—can calm people down and sharpen their performance.” So amidst all the busyness of the day, find a minute to just be. Then (to remind myself) write about it!
For the past few weeks, my writing has taken a backseat to the busyness of life. One poem in particular has me stumped. So I went looking for models to emulate. I don’t think the structure of this poem, from Margarita Engle’s verse memoir Enchanted Air, will work for my poem, but it touched my heart.
“Turtle Came to See Me”
by Margarita Engle
The first story I ever write is a bright crayon picture of a dancing tree, the branches tossed by island wind.
I draw myself standing beside the tree, with a colorful parrot soaring above me, and a magical turtle clasped in my hand, and two yellow wings fluttering on the proud shoulders of my ruffled Cuban rumba dancer’s fancy dress.
In my California kindergarten class, the teacher scolds me: REAL TREES DON’T LOOK LIKE THAT.