Books Poetry Poetry Friday

[Poetry Friday] Poetry as a Blessing for Teachers

poetry friday

Myra here.

(Special thanks to Heidi Mordhorst of My Juicy Little Universe for hosting this week).

Yesterday, my book club at my teacher-training institution (National Institute of Education at Nanyang Technological University) met up to discuss Teaching with Heart: Poetry that Speaks to the Courage to Teach edited by Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner.

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I recommended this book for our Poetry Reading Month since I enjoyed Teaching With Fire: Poetry that Sustains the Courage to Teach which I discovered through Linda Baie from TeacherDance. There are actually three titles in the series that I know of:

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For those who may not be familiar with the books, the editors sent out an open call to American teachers (across various levels and a variety of educational settings) inviting them to “share revelations about their teaching life and their encounters with poems that have meant something to them.” 

The editors were fairly clear about their objective as they sent out the call for submissions:

We told educators that this book would seek to provide a platform for teachers and educators to speak wholeheartedly about the teaching life and the challenges and possibilities that teachers encounter every day in their work. We asked them to submit a favourite poem and a brief personal story (250 words) that described why this particular poem held meaning for them, personally or professionally.

Teaching With Heart was divided into ten sections or themes which consist of nine poems per theme. The editors presumably based the themes on the hundreds of entries that they received in their attempts to “form a cohesive whole that would represent the wide range of teachers’ perspectives and experiences.” 

The themes are: Relentless Optimism, Teachable Moments, Beauty in the Ordinary, Enduring Impact, The Work Is Hard, Tenacity, Feisty, Moment to Moment, Together, and Called to Teach. There is also a brief description of each theme before the poems and the teachers’ essays are presented by the editors.

Admittedly, I enjoyed Teaching With Fire more, not so much because of the poems selected nor the quality of the essays – but possibly because it was the first book in the series that I read, and the novelty of the idea struck me as particularly inspired.

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Our book club at the NIE consists of three American educators: clockwise – Zachary Walker from Early Childhood and Special Needs Education – he’s the one holding the camera being the one with the longest limbs, Mark Baildon from Humanities and Social Studies Education, Maureen Neihart from Psychological Studies, Kristina Burgetova is a Slovakian psychologist and one of the counselors primarily responsible for the NIE Wellness Centre, Ruanni Tupas is a Filipino Professor with the English Language and Literature Academic Group, and then there’s me from the Early Childhood and Special Needs Academic Group.

It was interesting how we all had different responses to the book: a few mentioned that there are poems that appealed to them and quite a lot that didn’t resonate with them at all. We were all one in noting that we enjoyed reading the teachers’ essays even more than the poems as they provided meaningful context about why the poem mattered to them; this effectively adds a glow or gleam to the poem that it may not have had previously. It was also discussed that a more transparent inclusion or exclusion criteria to the submissions would have added greater depth to the ‘reading’ of the poems. It would have helped if there was greater transparency in the selection process and the process the editors went through in grouping the poems across the themes that they selected. As a qualitative researcher, I am interested to know whether the themes were pre-selected or pre-configured or did the themes organically arose from the submissions that they received.

Needless to say, it was quite a meaningful discussion and the book inspired us to imagine how this project may be like if done here in an Asian setting or context. Hmmm.. seems like a new project brewing.

And so, for Poetry Friday this week, allow me to share one of the poems from the book that spoke volumes to me. I shared and read this aloud with my own pre-service teacher trainees. I took a picture of the page and as per usual, I edited it using an iPhone app. I hope it finds you and gives you Blessing: For Presence.

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12 comments on “[Poetry Friday] Poetry as a Blessing for Teachers

  1. Myra – what a treat! Thank you for sharing, and I can only imagine the lively and thoughtful discussions you all have had. The John O’Donohue particularly resonates with me just now – I’m sending your link not only to my first-year-teacher daughter, but to my psychiatrist hubby and my religious-studies-major son! Much appreciation from me today. XO

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, Myra, for this Blessings poem. In a synchronicity moment, I just yesterday was working on a prayer poem in which the stanzas begin with “May you.” The tough thing is not to get to preach-y! Thanks for sharing. xo

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Myra, I love seeing you in your “natural habitat” with colleagues! This series of books goes on my list for the summer–and thanks for the shared blessing. What is the app you use for your decorations?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Myra, this post was an interesting look at the process your book club uses while reading and discussing a book. Thank you for sharing one of the poems from the book. Would you and your colleagues be interested in the Winter Whisperings Gallery writing as a challenge? I posted about it on my blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for sharing this Myra. What an interesting project that must have been. I may have to look for those books.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I remember Linda sharing this book, but haven’t had a chance to read it yet. Thank you for sharing this poem, Myra. I love the last lines, “May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven/around the heart of wonder.”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love this first one, Myra, as you know, and still share poems from it to my colleagues & to my students. It is a treasure. I haven’t purchased the recent one, yet, but glad to hear what you & your group think too. Wishing I had a group like that!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. “Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.” I do so love that line, Myra, and that sentiment. What a rich life you live – steeped in books and bookish companionship. Hoping that beautiful daughter of yours is enjoying and thriving at her new school.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Myra, I hadn’t heard of this series. I’m not sure how I missed it, but I’m going to head over to Amazon and look for the titles. Thank you for sharing these. I’m envious of your book club! We used to have one at my school. With changes to curriculum and test prep, our workload grew and many members simply couldn’t fit it into their schedules. I miss it.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wow, what a poem…”quiet immensity of your own presence,” “the temple of your senses” “secret sympathy of your soul”…transformative and beautifully put. I am grateful to have found this post among so many riches of the recent Poetry Friday during a very busy time for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: [Poetry Friday] Refugees Welcome: “Accepting This” by Mark Nepo and “What They Took With Them” by UNHCR – Gathering Books

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