Remembering

Poetry often seems obscure, so dense with meaning that reading it feels like a being in a dark fog. So it is not surprising that many students feel a sense of relief when high school poetry classes end and real life begins.

I am a teacher and, for me, poetry is real life. Nevertheless, in my eighth-grade Humanities classes, we don’t spend a lot of time analyzing poems. We talk about them, decipher difficult words, and notice some literary techniques. Mostly, we read them aloud. Over and over. Until finally, in groups, students stand and recite by heart.

The first poem of the year is usually ‘Walkers with the Dawn’ by Langston Hughes:

Being walkers with the dawn and morning,
Walkers with the sun and morning,
We are not afraid of night,
Nor days of gloom,
Nor darkness —
Being walkers with the sun and morning.

Later, we learn ‘My Heart Soars’ by Chief Dan George:

The beauty of the trees,
the softness of the air,
the fragrance of the grass,
speaks to me.

The summit of the mountain,
the thunder of the sky,
the rhythm of the sea,
speaks to me.

The faintness of the stars,
the freshness of the morning,
the dew drop on the flower,
speaks to me.

The strength of fire,
the taste of salmon,
the trail of the sun,
And the life that never goes away,
They speak to me.
And my heart soars.

Tears of happiness often fill my eyes when I hear students reciting poems. I am filled with awe, listening to them learn great works of literature that have held people together from one generation to another. Sometimes, while waiting to be dismissed, students recite just for the fun of watching me cry. One year, a few students – while waiting in attendance rows for gym class to begin – spontaneously started reciting ‘No Man is an Island’ by John Donne. Soon, almost 60 of them were loudly reciting in unison. When they were finished, they smiled at me and started again:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Poetry has helped me through hard times in life and I’ve trusted that it would help my students, as well. This week, after a thirteen-year-old girl was killed by an intruder in one of the local high schools, I got an e-mail from a former student:

“As you have heard Abbotsford Senior has experienced tragedy on Tuesday. What you may not know is that I had the unfortunate privilege of administering first aid on the second victim, which saved her life. I email you because I wish to thank you for a poem you made me memorize in the eighth grade, 4 years ago. Not only has it stuck with me as my favourite piece of poetry…, but it has really helped me accept what happened. The poem is by John Donne and it is called “No Man is an Island”…. Thanks again for this poem, and I would like to assure you that I am doing okay,…. Just so you are aware, I give you permission to use this as an example for the importance of poetry.”

I was humbled by this young man who found strength and peace from remembering a poem written almost 400 years ago. This time, my tears were the bittersweet ones that come from seeing children turn into adults. They were the quiet tears that come from seeing people cope with the pain of life through the power of poetry.

We don’t have to always analyze poems. Just learn them. Keep them safely in our hearts. They will help carry us through life.

 

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Happy Diwali!

The Festival of Lights

“This Diwali let us give thanks for all we hold dear: Our health, our family, our friends and to the grace of God which never ends.” – anonymous

Diwali

Diwali is the most important festival in India. It marks the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. It is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains around the world.  People clean their homes and buy new clothes in preparation for this celebration. And then for five days, they enjoy getting together with their friends and relatives, eating special foods, and setting off fireworks that light up the dark skies.  

Celebrate Diwali

The most important day of the festival is on the darkest night between the middle of October and the middle of November. It is the night of the new moon, the night when we cannot see any light reflected from the moon. This year, Diwali is on October 30th. 

Diwali

“May this Diwali bring you the utmost in peace and prosperity. May lights triumph over darkness. May peace transcend the earth. May the spirit of light illuminate the world. May the light that we celebrate at Diwali show us the way and lead us together on the path of peace and social harmony. Wishing everyone a very Happy Diwali.” – anonymous 

Diwali

“Diwali – A festival full of sweet memories, sky full of fireworks, mouth full of sweets, house full of diyas and heart full of enjoyment.” – anonymous

Diwali

Das, Prodeepta. I is for India. London: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2016. A colourful 32-page alphabet book full of detailed information for elementary and middle school readers.

Dickmann, Nancy. Diwali. Chicago, Ill.: Heinemann Library, 2011. An easy to read 24-page book –  with large photographs, glossary, and index for students learning to do research – recommended for children up to eight years of age.

Heiligman, Deborah. Celebrate Diwali. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2006. A 32-page book – with recipes, card game, map, glossary, bibliography, and internet links –  for readers 11-years-old and up.

Parker-Rock. Michelle. Diwali: the Hindu Festival of Lights, Feasts, and Family. Berkeley Heights, N.J.: Enslow, 2004. A 48-page book – with glossary, index, bibliography, and internet links – for readers 10 to 14 years of age.

Pettiford, Rebecca. Diwali. Minneapolis, Minn.: Bullfrog Books, 2015. A colourful easy to read 24-page book –  with large photographs and index –  for children up to eight years of age.

Torpie, Kate. Diwali. New York: Crabtree Pub., 2009. A colourful large print 32-page book – with glossary and index – recommended for elementary and middle school students. Part of the ‘Celebrations in My World’ series.

Click HERE for stories set in India.

I is for India

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October is Library Month!

“A good library will never be too neat, or too dusty, because somebody will always be in it, taking books off the shelves and staying up late reading them.” Lemony Snicket

Library Month

“Reading is important.
Books are important.
Librarians are important. (Also, libraries are not child-care facilities, but sometimes feral children raise themselves among the stacks.)” – Neil Gaiman

Learn how libraries are organized

“In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.”  – Mark Twain

Read stories about books and libraries

“Ben wished the world was organized by the Dewey decimal system. That way you’d be able to find whatever you were looking for.”  – Brian Selznick, Wonderstruck

Learn about the famous Dewey decimal system

Play some Dewey decimal games online

The Library Book

People have been keeping written records of ideas and information for thousands of years.  Archeologists have discovered a collection of 30,000 clay tablets at an ancient site in modern Iraq. Historians know that the famous Alexandria Library in ancient Egypt had over 400,000 scrolls and that by 400 C.E., there were already 28 public libraries in the city of Rome! But it wasn’t until the 1800s that free public libraries became popular.

Read more fun facts about libraries

“The library in summer is the most wonderful thing because there you get books on any subject and read them each for only as long as they hold your interest, abandoning any that don’t, halfway or a quarter of the way through if you like, and store up all that knowledge in the happy corners of your mind for your own self and not to show off how much you know or spit it back at your teacher on a test paper.” – Polly Horvath, My One Hundred Adventures

Discover the secrets of people who love reading

“Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.” – Ray Bradbury, science fiction writer

Library Month

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Gratitude

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
– L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Enormous Smallness

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)…

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

e.e. cummings, American poet (1894-1962)

“In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German pastor who gave his life fighting Nazism during World War 2

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” – Epicurus, ancient Greek philosopher 

Click HERE for Thanksgiving books for young readers. 

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” – Meister Eckhart, medieval German theologian

Glory

Burgess, Matthew. Enormous Smallness: a Story of e.e. cummings. New York: Enchanted Lion Books, 2015.

Carlstrom, Nancy White. Glory. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2001.

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World Rivers Day

World Rivers Day

is celebrated every year

on the last Saturday of September! 

The founder is Mark Angelo, a river conservationist from Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.

Where on Earth are Rivers?

“I have never seen a river that I could not love. Moving water . . . has a fascinating vitality. It has power and grace and associations. It has a thousand colors and a thousand shapes, yet it follows laws so definite that the tiniest streamlet is an exact replica of a great river.” – Roderick Haig-Brown, Canadian naturalist

The St. Lawrence

“‘So-this-is-a-River.’

‘The River,’ corrected the Rat.

‘And you really live by the river? What a jolly life!’

‘By it and with it and on it and in it,’ said the Rat. ‘It’s brother and sister to me, and aunts, and company, and food and drink, and (naturally) washing. It’s my world, and I don’t want any other. What it hasn’t got is not worth having, and what it doesn’t know is not worth knowing. Lord! the times we’ve had together!'” – Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

The Rhine

“We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one.” Jacques Cousteau, French oceanographer

The Nile

“The river itself has no beginning or end. In its beginning, it is not yet the river; in the end it is no longer the river. What we call the headwaters is only a selection from among the innumerable sources which flow together to compose it. At what point in its course does the Mississippi become what the Mississippi means?” – T.S. Eliot, Introduction to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Mississippi

“Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.” – A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

The Amazon

“Who hears the rippling of rivers will not utterly despair of anything.” – Henry David Thoreau, American naturalist

The Tigris and Euphrates

“Rivers know this: There is no hurry, we shall get there some day.” –  A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

The Yangtze

“Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: What is soft is strong.” – Lao-Tzu, Chinese philosopher 

The Ganges

“In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes; so with present time.” – Leonardo da Vinci 

Rivers in Danger

Goodman, Polly. Rivers in Danger. New York: Gareth Stevens Pub., 2012.

Mighty Rivers

Green, Jen. Mighty Rivers. Mankato, Minn.: Smart Apple Media, 2010.

Make a Splash

Kaye, Cathryn Berger.  Make a Splash! : a Kid’s Guide to Protecting our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers & Wetlands. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Pub. Inc., 2013.

10 Rivers that Shaped the World

Peters, Marilee. Ten Rivers that Shaped the World. Toronto: Annick Press, 2015.

Renewing Earth's Waters

Peterson, Christine. Renewing Earth’s Waters. New York: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2011. 

Click HERE for picture books and novels about rivers!

“How lovely the little river is, with its dark changing wavelets! It seems to me like a living companion while I wander along the bank, and listen to its low, placid voice…” – George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss

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