Friday, February 01, 2013

Inaugural Poem and classroom visit


Apparently it is difficult to write an inaugural poem. Frankly, I pay very little attention to poetry. However, recently I walked into a classroom with this portion of poem on the board for "Free Write" time of the class. Unfortunately, I walked in late so there was only 1 minute left of free writing time.

"One Today' Richard Blanco (first two paragraphs, find the rest here)

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,

peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces

of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth

across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.

One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story

told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.


My face, your face, millions of faces in morning's mirrors,

each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:

pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,

fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows

begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper—

bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,

on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives—

to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did

for twenty years, so I could write this poem.

I looked around the classroom and saw a bunch of sullen teenagers. I compared them mentally to the excited, energetic third and fourth graders I know. I wondered which level of sullenness my boys and their friends would be in tenth grade. Who will be the apathetic, shoulder shrugging child who refuses to answer the teacher's question, but otherwise abides by the rules of the class? Who will be the child that refuses to listen to the clear directive to "put away your phone" until the last possible moment before losing the privilege of having it in his/her possession for the class? Who will hide and be silent? Who is the one that will respond in a harsh, defiant manner to the teacher (but is correct)? And who will be the polite, hard working child that still exudes the teenage front of disdain and apathy?

Which child will honor so generously his or her parents' sacrifice, as Mr. Blanco's poem does?  

As I noted on Twitter, I appreciate the teachers and principals who let me come into their classrooms to see the way policy impacts the classroom. I always marvel at how much I learn (SSR? oh, that means, silent, sustained reading- I read Fahrenheight 451- what a good book).

If you want to read an article on how it is difficult to pull of an inaugural poem, here is a link to a Slate article on those whose poems didnt make the cut.

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