My busiest time of year, and it will remain so until early January, was made a bit more complicated when our daughter unexpectedly needed to accompany her fathers to their workplace for most of this week.
The reasons why are the subject of another post, but fortunately our daughter’s dads both work in the same high school where our colleagues didn’t question why our eight-year-old kid was joining students much older.
I probably had an easier time than my husband. Alone in my lovely office with my lovely daughter, I enjoyed her company.
My husband, who is not an administrator, and as a teacher does not have his own classroom, was stretched a bit more than I as he balanced the vicissitudes of parenting and his paid job simultaneously.
To be fair, our daughter was a great sport.
Our school in Hawaii promotes fluid learning and flexibility — hence, the many open spaces, movable walls, and, for teachers, no rooms they can call their own.
So what does this have to do with poetry?
When I applied for my job, as I have with all my jobs working in small, private schools, I asked to be a teacher or a coach for a few hours a week so I can also get to know students and their families and not just be the office guy. It allows me to step outside my organized little world into a classroom or playing field with all its rewards and challenges.
In my current position that I’ve held for nearly five years, my boss has let me teach German and poetry, two subjects that have been near and dear to me for my entire life.
My daughter was with me during the poetry workshop yesterday at the end of a long week where students and adults alike were tired.
I came into a room where teenagers were slouched over tables looking at their phones. I greeted them in German! They knew I would remind them to put their phones away. They knew I would ask if any of them since the beginning of the week had found a new poem they wanted to share. I knew they were coasting a bit toward the promised land called the weekend.
Since many of the students are new to poetry, I changed the subject a bit, asking them how they managed difficult or unexpected stretches in their days or routines, how they might overcome a bit of anxiety if they faced a tough homework assignment, test, or presentation.
I offered a solution: find a great poem and memorize it a few lines at a time so that it becomes a friend for life during difficult or enjoyable times, like unexpectedly having your child accompany you to work most of the day!
The students gave me a look that said, “Show us, don’t just tell us.” So I did. I plucked from my memory a passage from Die Brücke am Tay, a ballad by Theodor Fontane. Although the last time I recited it was five years ago, it came back instantly. I stood in front of teenagers and my daughter and repeated it aloud, slowly, in German.
The students, who include a German exchange student, stayed a little longer than needed in the workshop. For a few extra minutes, they kept their phones in their backpacks. A few even smiled as they left the room.
Later that evening, my daughter sat down and wrote a poem.