Poets muse on life itself—its purpose, its significance, its wonder, its beauty, its genius, its travails, its pain, its conflict. They help us define ourselves with respect to others and the universe, and they help us see and marvel at the gift of life in bright or dark times. They help define humanity and dream of noble ventures and the simple beauty of nature and human tenderness. They speak of mind, soul and spirit.
Great teachers do the same for their students. Rallying them around honorable character and helping them reach for a higher calling has always been the ideal of teachers.
Teachers and poets both work the soil of intangibles—those things in life that are hard to measure but make us uniquely human and alive. Teaching is not an emotionless endeavor. Teachers connect with the heartstrings of children to nourish insight, wonder, creativity and motivation.
Poets and teachers live in intimate relationship with the minds, hearts and souls of people. Sometimes that life is harsh or tender, noble or crass, or quiet or bombastic. But teachers and poets touch us in ways that help us see the world and ourselves more clearly and maybe with a different perspective.
Poetry frequently provides insight on the simple things of life. The call to simplicity is legend in literature, poetry, and philosophy. Children’s lives seem consumed by the surrounding context and its complicated conundrums and expectations. Yet, teachers must make complex issues and concepts understandable in simple terms for students with their diverse needs and abilities.
The old Shaker hymn, “Simple Gifts”, reminds us of the task that teachers confront each day in helping students fulfill the promise of their lives.
‘Tis the gift to be simple, ‘tis the gift to be free;
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be;
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed
To turn, turn will be our delight,
‘Til by turning, turning we come round right.
Finding “where we ought to be” in life and work is a true gift that teachers help students uncover. Finding their place and calling in clear, simple terms in a ever-changing environment frees children to be themselves and meet their destiny; the place where things fit and feel just right.
Good teachers invoke both wonder and a whole range of emotions when they share their truth through strong, positive relationships and experiences with their students. This involves exploring together the great philosophical questions: what is truth, beauty, justice, liberty, equality, and goodness?
Finally, good teachers and poets understand that life is not an exercise in engineering. It does not always follow a logical or sequential path. It is filled with whimsy and mystery, serendipity and synchronicity. The unanticipated in life frequently hands us the biggest challenges, the largest gifts, and the greatest satisfaction.
The teachers celebrate life by helping children face their yearning for belonging and find their calling in their pursuit and dreams of a good and happy life.