So having finally resolved the cliffhanger that started with my growing up in a small sheltered town and high school on the edge of Appalachia before I moved onto a college I didn’t choose that was known as much for its parties and athletics as its academics, then to New York City, a village in Austria, later Vienna, Baltimore, a small city in New Hampshire, Bonn (Germany), a Quaker boarding school in the middle of the plains in Iowa, and finally to Honolulu, I can focus on who inspired the Teaching Moments thread in my blog that began over a month ago: my students.
I’m actually an administrator at a small high school in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Recently, I attended a conference with my peers where we were described as “professionals who facilitate philanthropy.” Most of us smiled when we heard that!
Many of the attendees have worked in our field for quite a while. To be in it, it helps a great deal to enjoy the excitement and adrenaline of reaching financial goals for an organization you believe in. To last in the field, it’s also good to know that even when you present your best self to the public day after day and year after year, it’s hard and not even possible to always reach goals and please everyone. Having a thick skin is an asset.
Guess what? I have a very sensitive side of me but I’ve lasted in my professional field for 20 years!
And fortunately, in searching the world for the right place for me and later for my family, I now work in a school that may not be perfect, but is sure one I wished I had gone to as a teenager and where I hope my daughter will be a student some day.
And where, when I’m not facilitating philanthropy, I can be a kind of life coach and teach subjects where I can tap into my sensitive side: German and poetry.
This year, in addition to German, I’ve led a workshop with a small group of devoted poets. They have recited classical and modern poetry, analyzed rhyme schemes, meter, and, most courageously, composed their own poems to share and discuss with each other and me, and even submit for publication. If I ask them to take on an assignment, they also know I’m right there with them.
Recently, we explored alternate histories and imagining the What If questions of life. The students heard a bit about my navigation of life and the places it took me. I was pretty stunned they had the patience to hear a few details — that I tried to keep on the light side — and to imagine what their lives might be like decades from now.
They also agreed to let me publish their poems in this blog and in our school newsletter. Today’s post is already longer than I intended, so I will publish one student poem and my own and save two additional student poems for Wednesday’s post. For their privacy, I’m not revealing their last names. Enjoy!
by Blake (student)
Written in March 2018
I sometimes wonder
If I lived somewhere colder
Or hotter or wetter
Would it be better?
I Left my Heart in Reykjavík
by Rüdiger (me)
Written in March 2018
I left my heart in Reykjavík
long after the midnight sun
hid below the mountains
and the crowds in the streets
still walked past the towering church
named after a pastor and poet,
to the city pond and beyond
and finally to the sea,
tasting night which was still day,
the cafés still open
on this island far away
from the rest of the world
where people are protected
by elves and gnomes,
where the brave are warmed
by sweet thermal springs in winter.
Iceland, I’m calling to you from Hawaii,
like you on your own in the ocean
with legends and volcanoes.
I chose your close cousin
but left my tracks on your streets,
and in the Atlantic sands,
my heart still craving you and never distant.