Friday, August 31, 2018

"all the world is all of us"

I went back to see whether my first-days-of-school post last year expressed any of the even-keeled matter-of-fact even-slightly-boredness that I'm feeling during this year's preservice week, and the answer surprised me.  At this time last year my blog makes NO MENTION OF THE START OF SCHOOL.  I, who have lived for the excitement and possibility of the new year since, well, 1968, have been rather unmoved by it for two years now.  I'm shocked.

But honestly, this year feels different even than last. This year I'm very aware that the fresh new folders and the fussing over my first-day script and our new schedule's opportunity to be faithful with #PoemADay are all just routine--they're what I've done every year for 30 years.  This year I'm very aware that the big excitement doesn't come until the kids walk in.  The true fresh newness is the living breathing being of the collective class:  how will I welcome each and every child as she or he is, and help them turn that welcome around and beam it on to their classmates? [This little light of mine--I'm gonna let it shine...]

This is not achieved by standing at the copier prepping days' worth of paper, by fancying up the decor, by micromanaging my slot on the library check-out schedule (the one of those three things that I have done this week and which I now see was unnecessary).

Being prepared, creating a comfortable environment, providing for a workable timetable--all these help, but none of them are the real work of a teacher in these days, in this moment.  The real work is, as it has always been, interpersonal, emotional, the work of commitment to the balance of liberty and justice for all in the deep formative experience of 2nd grade, any grade.  That looks different in American classrooms now, is always changing, but has reached a tipping point, as the pundits say.

So here's an appropriate little back-to-school poem, friends.  Labor over this at the weekend, and have a great new year of school.

Declaration of Interdependence | Janet Wong

We hold these truths
to be not-so-self-evident--
but think about them a while
and you might agree:

all men are created equal-
ly a puzzle, made up
of so many parts;
and each of us makes up part

of the greater puzzle
that is our nation.
Lose one piece
and the picture is incomplete.

What happens when
too many pieces,
one by one,
become lost?

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit
of Happiness: let's do our best
to find the pieces that fit together,
to make our picture whole.

from Declaration of Interdependence, presciently 2012
by Janet Wong

Thanks to Robyn over at Life on the Deckle Edge for hosting Poetry Friday today. March on over and see where you fit in the greater puzzle.


  1. Brava, Heidi! I always love seeing this poem, and esp. love the connections you are making about what's important in the classroom. So often we angst over the wrong things... sigh. So easy to be distracted from what really matters. Sending love to you and those new 2nd graders! xo

  2. Presciently indeed. Sigh.
    And just think - your new batch of beaming faces might not have the hot flush of excitement from a brand-newbie teacher, but they will have a depth of experience that she couldn't have offered back in the early days, and still the same passion. Have a wonderful year - I know you and your young poets and scientists and mathematicians will!

  3. Yes! After the years, the part before becomes just waiting until the REAL happens, those kids! I love Janet's book, and this poem, so very important always, but this year, especially! Best wishes for a sweet time with those young, and lucky, students of yours, Heidi. I wrote about school's beginning today too.

  4. Welcome to a new school year and a room full of new faces! What a great teacher you are, and how well you know what really matters!

  5. "Let's do our best
    to find the pieces that fit together,
    to make our picture whole.
    I can't think of better words to carry with me into the new year. Thank you, Heidi, for shining your light and helping me be a better writer, teacher, person.

  6. Thanks for sharing this new-to-me poem. That final stanza is so important to our nation and to our classrooms! And your line: "The true fresh newness is the living breathing being of the collective class: how will I welcome each and every child as she or he is, and help them turn that welcome around and beam it on to their classmates?" That says it all! Have a wonderful start to the year!

  7. Love the poem, and the connection of patriotism, inclusivity and the back-to-school puzzle.

  8. I had not seen this poem, but I love it. It is so needed, especially in these times we are living in right now. Best to you and your students as you welcome a new year together--may you find and fit all the pieces together

  9. I like Janet Wong's wonderful play on the "Declaration of Interdependence." How we dearly need this now it needs to be broadcast within and beyond the school walls. Thanks for sharing it Heidi– and all the best on your first student meeting and classes as they continue.


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