Poetry Friday: “The Barks of Love” by Don Graves

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Laura Purdie Salas is hosting today’s Roundup at Writing the World for Kids.

I’ve been away from our classroom for three days – two at the Gates Foundation Learning Forum and today just sick…when one of my kids remarked that I was an “old lady teacher”, I’m thinking this is what she meant! The heart and mind are strong, but the body is not always able.  My kids have been much on my mind – and I miss them.  This morning, especially, in a quiet and still house, I’ve been missing their sixth grade spirits: the raucous sounds, the goofy silliness, their moments of drama – sometimes quiet and sometimes not.  I’m missing the way they touch base with me and with each other: the sly asides, the honest heart to hearts, the silent appeals for understanding and sympathy.

There were many thoughtful and interesting conversations about rigor, teaching, professional development and schools designed to help students succeed in the conference I attended.  But something was missing.  I’ve been mulling over this missing something, as I go over my notes and my many conversations over the past two days.  Today, I am able to name it – I missed hearing about what it’s really like to teach children.  I missed their voice.  In all the smart talk about assessment, standards, and college readiness, the reality of our lives in classrooms with children was somehow not ever addressed.

In one rather adversarial conversation about assessment, it became clear that the questioner did not grasp that we assess every second of our time in our classrooms – beyond standards and data and rigor, we also assess the emotional temperature of every kid in our classrooms every second of our teaching days.  It’s what makes teaching such a complicated combination of  performance art and air traffic control: even as we instruct, inspire, lead our kids in questioning and analyzing information, we are also acutely aware that Dan looks like he needs to throw up, or that Janey is looking more anxious today than ever and that you need to get to guidance asap to discuss what might be going on.  Their “learning readiness” is so much more complicated than just being able to participate in your standards aligned, well thought out lesson plan.   In our classrooms, we teach the whole child; we listen and are aware of their voices.

I can’t wait to see my kids, to hear them, to laugh with them, and to learn with them.  So, in search of their voice on this quiet day, I turn to a poem by Don Graves, from his collection Baseball, Snakes, and Summer Squash: Poems About Growing up:


9 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: “The Barks of Love” by Don Graves

  1. So true! So well said. Unless you’ve been there/done that, how to explain to “outsiders”–no matter how well-meaning–that it can’t be all about the assessments. Inhumane and inane that’s my assessment of the current state of teacher-based evaluations based on student test-assessments. Your students are lucky you have their back, as they have your ear! God bless you.

  2. Oh, that boy, sad unrequited love, but polite! And “Even math is enjoyable after that.” I love this from you: “we assess every second of our time in our classrooms”. I am often wondering: How can they not know? Do they not give attention to their own spouses/children/colleagues? I watched a lesson the other day, & the core teacher saw that one child wasn’t doing well, & took him aside. The lesson can be made up, but something was very much wrong, & this boy needed the support. Sorry you are under the weather, & hope these 3 days will return the energy a conference (& presentation) takes.

  3. “we also assess the emotional temperature of every kid in our classrooms every second of our teaching days.” And bless you for doing so! Great post, Tara. Feel better.

  4. Very sweet poem, but as Laura said, your words here about teaching, its true essence, are the real treasure. Your passion and dedication are truly inspiring. Thanks for all you do for your students!

  5. “It’s what makes teaching such a complicated combination of performance art and air traffic control.” This is sooo true. The emotional well-being of my students takes priority over tests and standards. Love the sweet love poem.

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