The Never-Ending Learnable Moment

How does one turn words into moving pictures? It’s a mystery to my scientific brain, and it’s a wonderful gift. A friend, colleague, and published poet – Sammy Parker – has captured with gut-wrenching accuracy the frustrations and joys of teaching. He’s freely given permission for me to share this with you. I hope it captures you as it did me.

How does one turn words into moving pictures? It’s a mystery to my scientific brain, and it’s a wonderful gift. A friend, colleague, and published poet – Sammy Parker – has captured with gut-wrenching accuracy the frustrations and joys of teaching. He’s freely given permission for me to share this with you. I hope it captures you as it did me.

THE NEVER-ENDING LEARNABLE MOMENT

By Sammy Parker

and there it is, she knows,

the cold, hard truth,

pared down to this:

if they’re not learning, I’m not teaching

 

The scattershot edge of

technology and “best practices”;

the tense imperative of detached policies;

the file-13 tsunami of reforms, tests,

and vague threats about

an always ill-defined “accountability”

—all of that enervating white noise of stuff—

recede in importance

in the face of her students’ needs;

the quality of their responses;

their levels of engagement and energy;

and all true measures of

knowledge gained

or not,

things learned

or not,

things they can do

or not,

inching forward

or not

in the minute-by-minute

mix and jumble and

sometimes erratic interaction of

her wisdom and experience and

those messy, volatile, staid,

predictable, unpredictable,

sweet, annoying,

infinitely marvelous, wonderful,

and often-edgy

kids.

God, how she loves ‘em and

how they give her pause,

their minds and lives raw and nascent,

poised to be molded or shaped or

maybe just inspired by

her words and manner and spirit

and by the way she smiles and frowns,

cajoles and soothes,

and touches their minds

—or not.

 

Halls now 4:00 silent,

kids dispersed for another evening

to the unknowable other of their lives.

As most days, this one,

filled with tiny increments of

success and failure,

small gains, smaller losses,

winds down with

the gleam of introspection,

the need to dissect

the ways by which it all unfolded;

to sense, intuit, and scrutinize

what worked, what didn’t,

and why.

But—a hallelujah moment!—

she’s really not alone now:

a teacher of note and skill and reputation,

she’s still learned more about teaching,

the heart and soul and rhythms and

pragmatic core of teaching,

from the lively, serious give and take

with Tamara and Darryl,

two and three doors down,

than from all those

annoying, blurry years

of central-office-mandated,

disconnected chatter,

of “experts” coolly “developing” her,

droning endlessly,

fragmented agendas chosen for the

speakers’ reps or the topics’

great relevance du jour,

the kids’—and thus her—

actual needs be damned.

Now, she goes to learn from peers,

they from her,

sharing, probing, analyzing, innovating

—the quintessence of learning—

she and them and all their kids

the center of this universe

because she knows, oh yes,

if they’re not learning, she’s not teaching,

and, maybe far more important,

if she and Tamara and Darryl aren’t learning,

the kids will have no chance.

And that,

she fiercely knows,

deep down in her teacher’s heart,

is, quite simply,

not an option.

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