Readers, friends, family; you know I haven’t been in the best of health or spirits. I’ve been recovering for a long time, and I continue to inch forward into Healthyland little by little each day. Blogging is therapeutic. So is writing poetry. And while poems can’t bring us a new governor… well, forward, people.
Look back into the not-so-recent past, about 12 years ago. I was heading out for a retreat that concluded a seminar style class for three credits. The final assignment that was kicking my royal hiking boots. On top of that, I needed to finish the work three days early because I was accompanying my class to the annual rite of passage called Sixth Grade Camp. What was the assignment? I thought you’d never ask.
We were to bring a piece of art, story, quote, poem, or some other form of creative self-expression to share with a discussion group. This piece was to reflect a pivotal event or “a-ha!” moment in teaching. I complained to my coworker, also preparing for camp, that I was stumped. “I could just bring something unoriginal, something I’ve read or seen elsewhere. But I just can’t bring myself to do that when I’m capable of writing this myself. But I have the most rotten case of writer’s block ever! Every rough draft I’ve come up with has been trite or lame, and nothing seems to represent the real me!”
“Daisy,” my coworker chuckled, “You could go with nothing in hand, say just that, and it would say volumes about you.”
Well, that comment stopped me in my tracks. For a change, I had nothing to say. But I did go home, grumble, and write. It turned out quite well and needed very little revision. It was hard to share, though, because it was very serious and highly personal.
Now, twelve years later, I’m finally ready to share this poem with the world, or at least with the teaching world. I submitted it to the Journal of the Wisconsin State Reading Association, and they’re going to publish my poem in their August issue. Now readers, some of you are teachers and WSRA members, but I’m going to let you have a sneak preview. The rest of you, well, you can take a peek, too. Here it is.
If I were perfect:
The piles of papers on my desk would be gone
Or at least visibly smaller.
My records would be up to date, up to the minute
All of the time,
Not just for conferences or progress reports.
I would always start math precisely on time
And allow exactly twenty-five minutes for homework.
My class would walk down the hall single file without breaking rank
So quietly you could hear a pencil drop.
I would never get mad
Or raise my voice
Or lose patience
Or let things slide because – well, just because.
But would perfection allow
Excitement, enthusiasm, fun?
Would perfection allow
Time to slow down, pause, stop?
Time to listen
To what the children say
To what the children think
To what the children really feel?
But perhaps – just maybe,
Being human is more important.