I started blogging two years ago this month after polling three people I’d never met (and still hope to some day)–LL Barkat, Glynn Young and Laura Boggess. I found them via the online community of The High Calling network and reached out with my questions. Each of them is a gifted writer with their own unique style; each of them encouraged me to follow my passion to write. I was astonished by their kindness and am forever grateful. Since then,LL Barkat has left blogging to follow her passion to begin publishing and TS Poetry Press was born. Glynn is one of the first authors in the TS Poetry ‘Masters in Fine Living’ series.
When I first saw the title of Glynn Young’s newest book, “Poetry at Work” (TS Poetry Press), my only thought was, “I don’t go to work, I teach school.”
Of course, teaching school IS work—ahem! I am a substitute elementary school teacher now–but I don’t have an office, there are no cubicles or board meetings, no corporate setting that I could equate with my picture of Glynn’s work day world.
Instead, I read the title as “Poetry at Work (in me)”—like God’s word at work in me—changing me through its dynamic presence and power.
There is tremendous power in poetry to not only unite people in their love of the same words but to bring light to a gray, old world.
So maybe there was a connection?
I may not have a cubicle or an office, but there is a desk and a chair. A place for a coffee cup and a pencil jar, a planner and notepad.
Stuff happens here.
And there are meetings. Oh, there are meetings, often taking on the tone of repetition and restlessness Young suggests, ‘same time, same people, almost always the same agenda.’ (p. 17 from the Introduction.)
I’ve been in public and private education for over 25 years and I am astonished each year to hear about a conference or a ruling or a system that declares itself to be ‘new’—except that we were discussing the very same approach/idea 25 years ago.
Clearly there are similarities between a classroom and a cubicle. Many of these ‘office’ actions speak to the lives of teachers all across America. There is plenty of work to do.
There is one way in which a primary teacher’s workspace is different than that of the rest of the working world.
Our plans and procedures immediately affect the lives of 25-30 very young children on a daily basis. Not to mention the runny noses and skinned knees and playground fights and lost lunches. And one must give grades for performance and passing tests. (Talk about conflicts and problems arising.)
We are expected to do an enormous amount of magic often with a very few resources—mainly time.
With all the educational requirements of the not-teaching that must be done–consuming precious time to impact the lives of these same young children–the life and joy can get sucked right out of the job. What’s a person to do?
Look for the poetry.
While I cannot control the workspace I find myself in each day—and certainly less so when I’m in a different classroom each day—I can control my response to that space and pay attention.
At the end of each chapter in “Poetry at Work” Young has written a “poetic exercise.” Chapter Three’s assignment?
The phrase about light made me pause, as I realized that looking for the light is a theme, poetic if you will, that has permeated my life for the last several years, looking to and depending on the light to reveal truth, to warm, to make children shine.
Because of the freedom now afforded me in my ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ job, I have the privilege of leaving a little light wherever I go, (without worrying about whether I met the day’s Goals and Objectives.) I just pack a few books of poems and stories.
Prior to Christmas break, I read “The Night Before Christmas” to a class of second graders who proclaimed, “Our teacher never reads to us—this is so fun!”
The week before in 2nd grade, it was Shel Silverstein’s, “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout.” (All those lovely garbage words–we read just for the delight of it–no learning involved. No ‘find the alliteration’ busy work. Nothing.)
One week I tried a passage with some fifth graders from Caroline Kennedy’s new anthology “Poems to Learn by Heart” –‘Disobedience’ by A.A. Milne.
It was clear the kids I read to had been robbed of the daily joy of simply hearing the beauty of words read aloud, the repetition and rhythm, the cadence, the sing-songy fun of picture-making that goes on in a young child’s head. There is so much imagination stirred when one hears a poem and their teachers had no time for that.
I would read to them even if it wasn’t in the Lesson Plans.
SO–I’m beginning a mini-revolution, if you will, in my workspace, by bucking the education trend. A subversive sharing of light, the privilege of spreading the power of poetry at work.
Will you join me?