Who Will Carry This Torch?

I wrote this poem eleven years ago. I return to it today and just want to weep. What are we doing to our children? Who will save them? Who will carry the torch of knowledge for the next generation and for the generation behind us?

 

No one to close the windows
when the rain storm pellets their beds.
No one to lock the doors at night
and keep intruders from walking in.
No one to warm up dinner and
feed their craving little bodies.
No one to scare away the dragons
who star in their dreams at night.

Abandoned.
Forsaken.
Forgotten.
Alone.

The children are
thrown away –
labeled incorrigible –
impossible –
beyond our abilities to help.

The achievement gap widens.
The terrain becomes more barren.
The house falls into further decay.
The green in the landscape
slowly
silently
serenely
melds into
grey.

When will
no child
be left
behind?

Then, I came across this beautiful hand drawing today and it  gave me new hope. This is drawn by a 15 year old girl from the Philippines and brings hope for change. Let it start here in our own country and in our own hearts.

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My Criteria for a Model School by Mark Naison

1. Children are loved and walk around the school with smiles on their faces.
2. Teachers are respected and stay in their jobs for a long time.
3. Parents are welcome in the school and are made to feel an integral part of the culture of the school.
4. The culture and history of the community the school is located is honored in displays and in what is taught in classes.
5. Arts, physical education, recess and sports are NEVER sacrificed for higher test scores.
6. ELL and Special Needs students are treated with respect and are given the counseling and special attention they need to thrive.
7. Students have such a positive experience at the school that they return on a regular basis after they have graduated.

If you think that these features are only found in private schools or schools in affluent middle schools, you need to visit the CASA Middle School in the Bronx where Jamaal Bowman is the principal.

This is not only something that CAN be done in all communities, it is something that MUST be done so that ALL our children can grow up with confidence in their abilities.

And Poetic Justice would add to the list the following:
8. All children will be encouraged to find and use their voices in academic subjects and particularly in creative writing and POETRY classes.

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An Excellent Day

May your day be EXCELLENT – full of the little gifts that make up moments of peace.

To awaken to birdsong and puppy kisses,
to the scent of brewing coffee and browning toast,
to greet the morn with meditation and sweet silence,
this is an excellent day.

To meet each student with a smile and a happy word,
to execute my lesson the way it is planned,
to correct with kindness and to praise with integrity,
this is an excellent day.

To write with freedom and with power,
to create word pictures with my pencil,
to share my writing with my students and friends,
this is an excellent day.

To greet the night time with joy and gladness,
to sleep in peace and restoration,
to have all around me bathed in glorious blessing,
this is an excellent day.

Now – BE HAPPY

A Saturday Poem – Priceless

Sometimes, I really have to remember why I am teaching. This morning I read through some of my old poems, just to get some hope and inspiration. I found this one that I wrote six years ago as I watched 21 young people receive their high school diplomas. I am in this teaching gig for the miracles – the miracles that occur when I am a very small part of transforming a young life.

Our kids are so much more than a test score.

I hope you like this one. If you are a teacher, I thank you for all you do for your students. Keep – keeping on. Don’t give up. Fight on for a better day for our children and grandchildren.

Priceless is the smile
on her face –
she who was abused
battered
violated at only four years old.

Priceless is the smile
on his face –
he who was ridiculed
demeaned
called filthy names by his friends.

Priceless is the smile
on their faces –
they who were once labeled incorrigible
a threat to the classroom
those kids who will never learn.

Priceless is the smile
on each face –
as they sit in cap and gown
with their senior class
and receive their high school diploma.

Who could ever put a price tag
on even one of their miracles?

And – one more little inspiration for you all today – Don’t Give Up from Peter Gabriel.

Long Live! A Rant for the Bleeding Heart Educators of America

A free and quality education is a civil and human right that is being obliterated by the political and corporate take over by such men as Bill Gates and such corporations as Pearson – all led by politicians and their deadly No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, SBAC, PARCC, and Common Core.

This poem is written in honor of the brave teachers standing up for children and fighting for quality public education in America.

Long live
the misfit and the outcast
the forgotten and the abused
the diamond in the midst of this messy morass.

Long live
the truth tellers
the wisdom weavers
the bringers of peace and happy healing.

Long live
the free thinkers and non-conformists
the mindful and deliberate
the conscious and the definitive.

Long live
the true teachers
those who guide by the side
who take a moment and make it forever.

Long live
the bleeding heart educators of America
those who care with their hearts and their minds
those who will never give up
those who will never shut up
those who will never abandon the dream that
they can touch a life forever!

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A Special Guest Posting from The Walking Man – Dr. Jesse Turner – “An Ode to Education”

From the Walking Man  – Dr. Jesse Turner

An Ode to Education

I Love Public Education
I cried the first time my Mother left me at your door,
I would learn to love you with every morning cookie and container of milk,
I would love you more with every song we sang within your hallowed walls,
I found your love in every teacher’s smile in your halls
I loved the reverence and respect you showed our flag every morning.
When the evil darkness of assassination
took the life of President Kennedy ~ you were there,
You calmed us, and helped us understand that although things could never be the same ~ our nation would be mended,
You kept us warm during the winters from 9:00 to 3:00 ~ when there was no heat in our old cold-water flat,
You were there when they murdered our heroes Martin and Bobby, to help us wipe away our tears,
You ensured that although they were taken from our world ~ these men would remain in our hearts forever,
You gave us hope through the riots and the protests,
You gave us color when there were no crayons in our homes,
You gave us poetry to ease our pain,
You gave us poetry to celebrate our lives,
You gave us history to give us roots,
You gave us geography, the stars and the moon landing ~ just to let us know we had no boundaries,
You taught us mathematics and science,
But most of all you gave us literature,
You gave us a love of books,
You handed us a little more of our dreams every single day,
You were there, year after year, as we spent our summer vacations under the cooling spray of fire hydrants ~ dancing in the streets,
As every summer ended we longed for another school year to begin,
You were beaming with pride at every graduation,
My loves still grows
I am confused by:
A nation’s leaders ~ who bash public schools at every opportunity,
An American media ~ that ignores 150 years of noble service to our nation’s children,
I find myself distraught ~ by the titans of industry, who blame you for every social ill, while they drink from the cup of plenty, time and time again,
I am troubled by their mantra of testing will save us,
I am saddened by their infatuation with fictional heroes like Superman, and homage to those with no real classroom experience,
I am bewildered by leaders who say teachers are the essential ingredients to success, and then in their next breath say our teachers are not good enough.
All I am I owe to you,
I can’t remember one single standardized test,
I do remember teacher after teacher telling us those tests were no measure of who we really are,
I remembered loving Mr. Bass’s reminders that poor boys and girls could be anything they dreamed,
His boys and girls were more than test scores,
We were his endless possibilities,
Yes, I love public education,
I love public education enough to fight for it,
I love public education enough to stand up for it,
I love public education enough to take it back from the
The billionaires club,
The politicians,
The policy makers,
The ones who only see test scores,
The ones who count numbers not tears,
The ones who refer to America’s children as “Data”
Yes, I love public education; enough to walk to Washington DC again in 2015.
Forever in your debt,
Jesse Turner

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You are all invited to take part in Jesse’s 400 mile walk from Central CT to Washington DC beginning this June 11th. Jesse be walking  to protest the education malpractice that is demoralizing parents, teachers, and turning our children into human capital.

He will be walking 400 miles in 40 days.

Please check out his FaceBook Event page.