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I just attended a welcome-back-to-school meeting that touched my heart. The principal, Brian Bizzoco, gave each teacher the following poem with a carefully wrapped seashell. This note was attached.
You are probably wondering why you have been given a seashell. It is a gift to you to help you reflect on another gift you are about to receive–your students. Let’s take a few minutes to consider what the shell can tell us about them.
(Adapted from Mary Madden’s ‘Gifts’)
Maybe your shell is fragile, delicate, and easily broken.
So are some of your students, so we shall handle
them kindly and with care.
Maybe your shell looks beautiful.
Each student in your class has a special beauty.
Discover it and help others to notice it and appreciate it.
Maybe you noticed that your shell has pieces chipped away or broken off.
Some students have had difficult experiences that have chipped away their
positive self-image and broken their spirit. We help to rebuild their self-image
and rekindle their enthusiasm.
The shell you have in your hand is unique.
It was carried to shore by the ocean just for you.
What will you do with it now that it is yours?
Each student in your class is unique, too.
Each one is in your hands now.
What will you do with them, now that they are yours?
Brian reminded teachers that each one has unique gifts to offer and encouraged them to express their gifts. I have no doubt that Brian will help his teachers (and students) flourish. Wouldn’t you love to work where this kind of thinking and feeling is encouraged?
When I told my seven year old
the story of Ray,
my friend with a hole
in his heart
he didn’t ask
He only asked,
“If you get a new heart
do you forget who
Last week I received a note from my son’s first grade teacher. She was inviting me to a Mother’s Day Tea and by the way, could I write a poem for my son? Oh, man. Another Mom project, I thought. Can you say corny?
But I wrote it, wondering what the other moms would do. Would they all write something? Would they all show up? Would we be rewarded with good food at least, for our efforts?
Well. Let’s just say I cried all the way through the Mother’s Day Tea. I was so completely taken listening to the moms read to their children. And the stories that were told in verse. Wow. The mom whose first son had died and who now found healing in her second son. The mom who made the clever rhyme comparing her son to an ice cream cone. The mom who’s afraid to read aloud to the class for fear of stumbling, but found the courage to read a loving ode to her daughter in front of almost fifty people.
I’m moved by the moms in my son’s class. I am moved by the poetry in their souls. I loved this Mother’s Day celebration more than any other so far. I thank my son’s teacher, Angela Cerchio, for asking me to do corny and for giving me the chance to open my heart.
Some kids read and write poetry all year. Jordana Greenberg, then a 5th grader at Manhattan New School, created a poetry anthology as part of a year long project. Starting in September, her teacher, Doreen Esposito, asked students to gather poetry books and spend some time reading and enjoying poems. Students would put post-it notes on the poems they liked. By the middle of the month, students would find one poem they really loved. They would copy the poem, then illustrate it. Next students would look through their notebooks to find entries that would go next to the published poem. Students could create their own poems based on the published poem. Or rework the notebook entry to sound more poetic. Or keep the entry as is. Students then illustrated their own piece of work and added it to the anthology. They turned the anthologies in at the end of the month and had a chance to share their work with others. At the end of the school year, students had a beautiful collection. The poem above is one entry in such an anthology. All I can say is…wow.
(For more on how to create these anthologies see The No-Nonsense Guide to Teaching Writing by Judy Davis and Sharon Hill.)