Celebrate This Week: Tending the Garden

I exhale as I come to this page on Saturdays to celebrate with Ruth Ayers. Ruth has cultivated a place to tend and account for the week’s treasures. A time to set aside the burdens and clear off a space to admire. Thank you, Ruth.

celebrate link up

Every morning as I round the corner to my classroom, I have a group of students waiting. If I’m a little late, they ask why. If I’m there before they are they question why. They want to help. They want to talk. They want to be in a warm classroom. This starts my day. Everyday.

And it continues throughout the day. At recess, at lunch, after school, officially and unofficially children come to get help, borrow a ball, call their parent, get a Bandaid, “help.” These kiddos are always filling the space and filling me with their ideas and questions.This week I celebrate the students who come because they want to and because they need to.

One morning Adam* walked in and sat down at my desk, looked me in the eye and asked, what can I do to get tested today? Not a typical kid question. He wants to take his running record. No problem, I tell him. He was due for one. So as soon as class started. We sat down.

Adam is not on grade level yet. Literature isn’t his cup of tea. He prefers reading nonfiction. Right now he’s obsessed with area 51. He also has a written plan to become president in 2048.  He is inquisitive and hilarious. But as he informs me, he just isn’t interested in reading fiction. I told him I understood. But, I added, if he plans to become president, he had better start reading a little more literature. We read “those” kind of books to understand people. Then I shared these quotes from a recent New York Times interview with President Obama.

Fiction was useful as a reminder of the truths under the surface of what we argue about every day and was a way of seeing and hearing the voices, the multitudes of this country.

…I think that I found myself better able to imagine what’s going on in the lives of people throughout my presidency because of the act of reading fiction. It exercises those muscles, and I think that has been helpful.

His eyes widened.

He’s still pouring over nonfiction facts, but I hope Obama’s words planted a tiny seed.

This week I celebrate Adam, his drive to succeed, and figure out area 51.



Poetry Friday: Langston Hughes

I found this book at a local library sale. Stamps on the inside front cover tell me the book’s original home was the Tenth Street School library in 1978.


Now it lives on my poetry shelf stamped OBSOLETE.  Out of date.
How far from the truth.

Langston Hughes’ poetry, illustrated with Ann Grifalconi’s woodcuts dig to the heart of then and now. The accessible symbolism is real for kids. The dark and light, the shadows, the wall, the dream. Students’ connections were quick. To their lives, to what they know. They couldn’t believe it was written in over ninety years ago.

That wall is still there in similar and different ways. Yet their dreams live. That’s one of the beauties of youth. While they noticed the darkness, they also saw the explosion of exclamation points at the end breakthrough allowing light and dreams to shine through.

As I Grew Older

by Langston Hughes

It was a long time ago.
I have almost forgotten my dream.
But it was there then,
In front of me,
bright like the sun–
My dream.

And then the wall rose,
Rose slowly,
Between me and my dream.
Rose until it touched the sky–
The wall.

I am black.

I lie down in the shadow.
No longer the light of my dream before me,
Above me.

Only the thick wall.
Only the shadow.

My hands!
My dark hands!
Break through the wall!
Find my dreams!
Help me to shatter this darkness,
To smash this night,

To break this shadow
Into a thousand lights of sun,
Into a thousand whirling dreams
Of sun!thumb_IMG_4761_1024.jpg

Thank you, Penny, for hosting Poetry Friday Roundup at Penny and Her Jots.