“April” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

As we near the end of National Poetry Month, here’s another beautiful poetic meditation on the season, this time by Ralph Waldo Emerson.Image

April

The April winds are magical
And thrill our tuneful frames;
The garden walks are passional
To bachelors and dames.
The hedge is gemmed with diamonds,
The air with Cupids full,
The cobweb clues of Rosamond
Guide lovers to the pool.
Each dimple in the water,
Each leaf that shades the rock
Can cozen, pique and flatter,
Can parley and provoke.
Goodfellow, Puck and goblins,
Know more than any book.
Down with your doleful problems,
And court the sunny brook.
The south-winds are quick-witted,
The schools are sad and slow,
The masters quite omitted
The lore we care to know.

 

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Adjunct professors unite and unionize!

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Adjunct professors unite and unionize!

It is sad that for many adjunct college professors teaching a full course load doesn’t provide a living wage as colleges increasingly adopt a Wal-Mart-style employment model. We must support adjunct faculty as they attempt to unionize to receive better pay and the benefits that they deserve. College is getting more and more expensive, but that money is increasingly flowing to administrators and CEO-like “presidents” as Jim Hightower discusses in this great article. 

Why you must watch Robert Reich’s documentary “Inequality for All.”

Most important documentary I’ve seen in a long time. He lets the facts speak for themselves about income inequality, revealing why it is the defining economic issue of our times. Educators take note. This is a social justice issue that touches everyone and is revealed in the race-based and class-based segregation in our schools.

As Reich shows, it is driving political polarization. Not only are we now “bowling alone,” we’re also being turned away from our neighbors because of how extreme and virulent the political discourse has become in this country. Ask your students what they think…

Philip Levine’s “What Work Is”

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This is a powerful, beautiful poem by Philip Levine. His book of poems with the same title is wonderful. In its Whitman-esque way, it celebrates the dignity and honor in true work. Find an audio version here: http://www.ibiblio.org/ipa/poems/levine/what_work_is.php.

What Work Is

We stand in the rain in a long line 
waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work. 
You know what work is–if you’re 
old enough to read this you know what 
work is, although you may not do it. 
Forget you. This is about waiting, 
shifting from one foot to another. 
Feeling the light rain falling like mist 
into your hair, blurring your vision 
until you think you see your own brother 
ahead of you, maybe ten places. 
You rub your glasses with your fingers, 
and of course it’s someone else’s brother, 
narrower across the shoulders than 
yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin 
that does not hide the stubbornness, 
the sad refusal to give in to 
rain, to the hours wasted waiting, 
to the knowledge that somewhere ahead 
a man is waiting who will say, “No, 
we’re not hiring today,” for any 
reason he wants. You love your brother, 
now suddenly you can hardly stand 
the love flooding you for your brother, 
who’s not beside you or behind or 
ahead because he’s home trying to 
sleep off a miserable night shift 
at Cadillac so he can get up 
before noon to study his German. 
Works eight hours a night so he can sing 
Wagner, the opera you hate most, 
the worst music ever invented. 
How long has it been since you told him 
you loved him, held his wide shoulders, 
opened your eyes wide and said those words, 
and maybe kissed his cheek? You’ve never 
done something so simple, so obvious, 
not because you’re too young or too dumb, 
not because you’re jealous or even mean 
or incapable of crying in 
the presence of another man, no, 
just because you don’t know what work is.

A favorite poem: “Persimmons” by Li-Young Lee

 

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Persimmons

 
 
 
In sixth grade Mrs. Walker
slapped the back of my head
and made me stand in the corner   
for not knowing the difference   
between persimmon and precision.   
How to choose

persimmons. This is precision.
Ripe ones are soft and brown-spotted.   
Sniff the bottoms. The sweet one
will be fragrant. How to eat:
put the knife away, lay down newspaper.   
Peel the skin tenderly, not to tear the meat.   
Chew the skin, suck it,
and swallow. Now, eat
the meat of the fruit,
so sweet,
all of it, to the heart.

Donna undresses, her stomach is white.   
In the yard, dewy and shivering
with crickets, we lie naked,
face-up, face-down.
I teach her Chinese.
Crickets: chiu chiu. Dew: I’ve forgotten.   
Naked:   I’ve forgotten.
Ni, wo:   you and me.
I part her legs,
remember to tell her
she is beautiful as the moon.

Other words
that got me into trouble were
fight and fright, wren and yarn.
Fight was what I did when I was frightened,   
Fright was what I felt when I was fighting.   
Wrens are small, plain birds,   
yarn is what one knits with.
Wrens are soft as yarn.
My mother made birds out of yarn.   
I loved to watch her tie the stuff;   
a bird, a rabbit, a wee man.

Mrs. Walker brought a persimmon to class   
and cut it up
so everyone could taste
a Chinese apple. Knowing
it wasn’t ripe or sweet, I didn’t eat
but watched the other faces.

My mother said every persimmon has a sun   
inside, something golden, glowing,   
warm as my face.

Once, in the cellar, I found two wrapped in newspaper,   
forgotten and not yet ripe.
I took them and set both on my bedroom windowsill,   
where each morning a cardinal
sang, The sun, the sun.

Finally understanding   
he was going blind,
my father sat up all one night   
waiting for a song, a ghost.   
I gave him the persimmons,   
swelled, heavy as sadness,   
and sweet as love.

This year, in the muddy lighting
of my parents’ cellar, I rummage, looking   
for something I lost.
My father sits on the tired, wooden stairs,   
black cane between his knees,
hand over hand, gripping the handle.
He’s so happy that I’ve come home.
I ask how his eyes are, a stupid question.   
All gone, he answers.

Under some blankets, I find a box.
Inside the box I find three scrolls.
I sit beside him and untie
three paintings by my father:
Hibiscus leaf and a white flower.
Two cats preening.
Two persimmons, so full they want to drop from the cloth.

He raises both hands to touch the cloth,   
asks, Which is this?

This is persimmons, Father.

Oh, the feel of the wolftail on the silk,   
the strength, the tense
precision in the wrist.
I painted them hundreds of times   
eyes closed. These I painted blind.   
Some things never leave a person:
scent of the hair of one you love,   
the texture of persimmons,
in your palm, the ripe weight.

– See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/23340#sthash.JfPnt4K9.dpuf

Harold, William, Victor, and Me (Part 1)

This is a powerful blog post by Larry Cuban that is all too true. As teachers, we can only do as much as we can with the resources we have. We need to take care of ourselves before we can ever hope to help others. It is a stressful job, and it is all too easy to burn out. This is especially true if you are new to the profession.

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

I want to tell you about three high school students I have taught.

First, Harold. Lanky, always stylishly dressed and so clever, he drove me up one of my four walls. Harold was 19 and in the 11th grade. He had failed all of his subjects the year before he entered my U.S. history class. Yet he scored above national norms on college board exams.

Harold was never, and I mean, never on time to class, that is, when he chose to come to class. About five minutes after the bell, he would bang through the rear door of the room, clip-clop over to his seat. Passing a friend, he would lean over, hand cupped to his mouth and whisper something. Anyone in earshot would laugh uproariously. Harold had arrived. Another lesson interrupted.

Whenever the class got into meaty discussions with students interacting over ideas raised in the lesson, Harold…

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