Today is National Poetry Day, a celebration of the ideas and words that inspire us, make us think, laugh, smile, and pause to reflect on the world around us. I spent my classroom years teaching in the early childhood and primary grades, so I have many favorite children’s poems that encourage readers to dream big:
Shel Silverstein: “Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me…Anything can happen child,anything can be.”
Dr. Seuss: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.”
Jack Prelutsky: “I am flying! I am flying! I am climbing unconfined, I am swifter than the falcon, and I leave the wind behind…”
As teachers, our words have the capacity to transform the young people in our care. With our support and encouragement, students will reach higher and strive for excellence. If this sounds like a great responsibility, well…that’s because it is! But it is also the absolute best job in the world.
I adore children’s poems, but for National Poetry Day, I’d like to share a “grown up” poem that is close to my heart. It’s called “To Be of Use” by Marge Piercy:
The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.
I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again
I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.
The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.
These are words that inspire me and remind me of the phenomenal teachers we have at each of our schools. Teachers are, by nature, “people who submerge in the task” and “move in common rhythm” to help our students succeed. I am grateful to work alongside them each day.