Morning drives to school are a ripe time for my kids to finish whatever they need to have ‘done’ for their homework. Often, they’ll use the time to practice a poem they need to memorize for the week. They’ll ask me to listen as they practice and admittedly, I only semi-pay attention as I’m often attempting to calm my 2 year old while trying to understand their low, mundane voices mumbling the words.
But this week was different.
This morning my daughter said ‘Want to hear the poem I memorized?’
Sure, I replied, more for encouragement than anything.
Then in a voice that understood the significance of the words she said:
‘The Summer Day- By Mary Oliver
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper
This grasshopper, I mean-
The one who flung herself out on the grass,
The one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
Who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down
Who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
Into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
How to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through fields,
Which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life.
I don’t know if it was because the words were unexpected or her tone matched the wonder of the poem itself, but I teared up. It was beautiful.
And as a school assignment for students- I think it’s a great first step.
Now I’d love for the curriculum to implement these social emotional steps:
- Step Two: Invite greater reflection on the ideas of the poem through conversation.
- Step Three: Support students through a strong emphasis on social emotional tools such as mindfulness, practicing gratitude and acts of kindness so they learn how to pay attention to the simple and deep value of life.
What are your thoughts on her poem assignment and my follow up ideas for curriculum, education and students? Maybe you have a Step Four to share? I’d love to know your ideas.