Grading student papers is not an easy job. It’s the reason I haven’t been on WordPress often these past weeks. Yet I have learned how important it is to grade mindfully, because the words we use can change lives – for better or worse.
I’m posting a poem my colleague shared with me tonight that speaks to this truth with power and eloquence.
My Name Is Not Those People, a poem by Julie K. Dinsmore, read Danny Grover on YouTube:
Feeling physically fragile as I gently greet the morning gazing up at the southwestern sky
a silent V of geese
soon followed by another, larger V trumpeting encouragement for the one temporarily leading breaking through wind resistance creating uplift for all those that follow so others can save their strength for their turn to carry the difficult responsibility of guiding others
working together in harmony because sharing responsibility lightens burdens in the journey of life unfolding
Ageist messages that I’m too old
at 70 to do simple chores
sometimes makes me hesitant to try
But my courageous daughter inspires me
and a funny thing happens when I do try anyway
I realize with the right tools
like my “new” $20 8-foot ladder
from Habitat for Humanity’s “Restore”
I can clear the gutters of
sprouting baby maple trees anyway
With my little green garden wagon,
work boots and heavy-duty gloves
I’m not too frail to haul and carry
landscaping blocks to upgrade gardens
and prevent continuing erosion anyway
I’m not ashamed to sweat buckets
in my raggedy work clothes
doing honest manual labor
It’s a gift and a privilege
to take care of what I can anyway
Privilege requires responsible stewardship
regardless of what others do and think
with simple tools to extend our reach
and help us carry heavy loads
‘though the efforts are always a work in progress
it’s important to keep shouldering what we can anyway
In honor of the colleagues and students who continue to make teaching and learning sacred endeavors. And in gratitude to the computer and cable technicians who made it possible for me to continue writing despite a malfunctioning anti-virus program.
Who would believe it’s possible
to witness lives transformed
in the span of a mere 2 years
by working together on a vision
of what could be?
Skills, knowledge and lasting bonds are built
when everyone shows up
graciously offering open minds and hearts
contributing their critical creativity to overcome challenges.
Divisions between teachers, learners, and cultures dissolve
expanding inclusive caring communities
empowered by life-long liberatory curiosity and compassion.
Students sharing what they learned to open up new possibilities and help create healthier communities
Promoting restorative justice as an alternative to juvenile corrections
Preserving culture and language by bringing generations together through storytelling circles
Using research to involve youth in diverse communities to improve education
Using skills to build programs to improve services for people who are homeless
and inspiring the next generation
Celebrating connections and accomplishments
In gratitude to colleagues and graduating students who make liberatory learning possible, and a special thank you to MJ for inspiring others by sharing her exceptional scholarship, tenacity, and wisdom.
What if we wondered what was hijacking our emotions,
and holding us in tightly wrapped boxes of fear, shame, anger and distrust
sealed by corporate satisfaction and greed;
as we’re fed from the roots of oppression.
Where it’s too dark to see truth,
amidst the noise of lies and deception
that relentlessly deprive and control thoughts,
what if we just started wondering?
What if, in wondering, we chewed a little hole,
just enough to let in the light of another’s presence
from a nearby box;
and in that light we found each other’s hands
and just started holding?
What if holding hands
made us each desire to see and understand
more of each other
and so together we just chewed harder?
What if chewing harder together
warmed our hearts
which fueled our courage;
so we could pull each other through
the holes in our boxes,
to just embrace?
What if embracing each other
made us able to stand together
and see all the millions of chewed boxes near and far,
and caused us to just question?
What if our questioning
how and why all so many people are struggling to survive in boxes,
made us tune out the noise and just listen?
What if our listening to different stories
helped us understand the forces outside of ourselves that are controlling us;
and the realization of our own and collective suffering
made us just start thrashing?
What if our combined thrashing
caused our boxes to break down,
so we could all just join hands?
What if our collective hand holding,
helped us all just stand up?
What if just standing up together
made us realize that sometimes each of us needs to be just held up?
What if in holding each other up
we were able to move together to figure out what just what we needed?
What if figuring out together what we needed
fed our hungry conscious
and a collective vision just started to grow?
What if the collective vision was nurtured
by the power of our continuous connections
and we just loved what we found in ourselves and each other?
What if we grounded ourselves in that love
and co-created just enough changes to save ourselves and sustain our world?