After seeing so many electronic references to this book on Facebook and in emails, I felt a desire to see what the hype was about. Sam Intrator and Megan Scribner produced this as a sequel to Teaching with Fire: Poetry that Sustains the Courage to Teach. The English major in me was attracted to the reflection on poetry, and the story teller in me was attracted to the narrations from such a wide variety of educators.
Each of the 90 selected educators (teachers across the entire educational sprectrum) provided a "treasured poem and then wrote a brief personal reflection on how poetry helps them make sense of the challenges and possiblities in their work." Minnesota is represented with Hannah Cushing, currently teaching high school language arts to students with emotional and behavioral disorders at Minnetonka. She selected a Naomi Shihab Nye poem "Kindness" and showed how the passing of her grandfather provided a meaningful connection with her students at an inner-city Native American school. Her students taught her how showing her authentic self in suffering may make us kinder, more loving people. Julia Hill, a reading specialist from St. Paul, is the other Minnesota contributor using Gary Snyder's poem For the Children. She captures the initial moments of discovery that brought her into education and advises us to "go light and not let the weight of the system take our energy away from what we know is best -- for the children."
The one that most resonated with me was from Larry Rosenstock, founding principal of High Tech High in San Diego, CA. My own personal interest throughout my career of producing college AND career ready students, was echoed in what he had to say about "transforming where kids are going, not replicating where they've come from." The poem he used is the one by Lao-Tzu that I have hung in my office(s) for over a decade On Leadership. This is the one that ends with "When his work is done, His aim fulfilled,They will all say, "We did this ourselves."
Besides being a heart lifter on a bad day, this is also a great idea that can easily be done in your own school district. Ask your staff members to pick poems they like and simply give an explanation of why it resonates with them. Collect these and share in a spot where people can see them, electronically or physically or in some other medium, whatever works.
It might be a rewarding opportunity for MASA members to identify a poem that matters because it indicates how you think about your own identity as a teacher or your work in education. Then write a brief commentary (up to 250 words) that describes your personal relationship with and connection to the poem...a personal narrative that describes how this poem touched you and how it helps you make sense of your life and work as an eduator. Then provide an opportunity for a public exposition of the work...printed book, blog, reading. Could make for a really positive public relations effort in any community!