Sunday, January 25, 2009

Thinking from my classroom

I'm really excited for the new semester and it's already off to a great start. One of the first activities I had my sophomores participate in was finding and responding to the deeper meaning in a text. I started by showing them Emily Dickinson's famous poem about hope and one of mine that was written in response to Dickinson's definition of hope (posted later on in this post). To take it a step farther, I had my students write briefly on how they would define hope after considering the definitions of the two poems. I was really pleased with how my students responded. There is always something amazing about watching the wheels turn in a young person's mind. Here are two student responses that really stuck out to me.

Student #1

Hope is the branch you grab while falling down a cliff.

Student #2

Hope is seeing the brighter side of a dark situation. [It's] like turning
the light bulb of hope on to bring light to a dark and bitter soul. It can
also burn out if relied upon too much or if hopes are too high and you're not
ready to accept the consequences of that hope not coming true.

The poem posted below is how I defined hope a few years ago and is the poem I shared with my students. After considering all of these thoughts on hope, dear reader, what are your thoughts?

Is hope a thing with feathers?
Can it really keep me warm?
She says it never asked a crumb of her,
But for me it takes a different form.

Hope stands haughty on a mountain top
Its golden coat shining in the sun
Majestic and inspiring
It lures me to push on.

When I finally reach it, though,
And stretch out my weary hand,
Its claws pop out and fangs appear
My heart, it demands.

Then it slowly eats away
At the things that I hold dear
Until there’s nothing left of it—
Not even my own tears.

Now I can’t help but ask myself,
Was Miss Emily right?
So much good can come from hope—
So much warmth and light.

But it only takes a moment
For Hope to change its fickle mind.
That’s when the beauty I once found in it,
No longer can I find.


Don said...

Well... I looked up Langston Hughes' two dream poems... (Let not dreams die... and Hope deferred...), but instead of his words... here are a few of my own to throw in the musing pot...


Hope often serves as an anchor for the soul.

If anchored to a bird…
It may take flight, take ill, or turn predatory.

If anchored to a time…
It may become past, fleeting, or forgotten.

If anchored to Nature…
At least Spring comes yearly,
The dawn daily,
And in Montana: Montana Moments.

What serves best as an anchor for the soul?
Good question.

Miss H~ said...

Thanks, Don. I like how you define it as an anchor for the soul. I also dig that you looked into Langston Hughes' stuff (one of my favorite poets).

Mind if I share your words with my kids??? It sometimes helps them to see this is something worth thinking about when "real" people outside of school think about the same things.

Don said...

Share away. (I got the title of one of the Huhges poems wrong: A Dream Deferred -- I think is the right title. I looked it up, read it, and forgot the title. ;-)

Hughes also uses a bird analogy -- but his ends up broken and/or frozen. (I wonder if he was "answering" Emily D.?)


Miss H~ said...

Hmmm... I'll have to have a look at Hughes's work. I'll see if I can see what you saw.

Thanks for letting me share. Being a fellow teacher, I'm sure you know the importance of making classroom skill relevant and real.

Thanks for being such a good thinker and for being so generous!