This morning, a cold drizzling Saturday, I woke up early and headed south on 202 to the Boot Road exit. A left turn, a right, another left, and soon I was headed into room 126 where dozens of teachers gathered for the annual PAWLP Spring Seminar day.
Every time I get together with PAWLP friends and family, I walk away feeling inspired, not only because I have some practical ideas to try in my classroom right away, but also because I get to reconnect with writing project fellows and also meet new friends like poet Janet Wong, who was the keynote speaker. With humor and a generosity of spirit, Janet shared suggestions for how to better integrate poetry across the curriculum, and I especially loved her ideas for using poetry through protest art (I can’t wait to try out some of her ideas, which I’m sure to write about in a future post).
Even though I don’t write poetry very often, I think Janet’s talk must have left me thinking in poetry, and in the breakout session, I drafted a poem. The session was on using visual metaphors to build narratives and led by PAWLP fellow Liz Matthews. As I’ve written before, I’ve been reflecting a lot on my faith lately, even bringing my writer’s notebook with me to mass every Sunday. One thing I keep coming back to is a line I wrote in my notebook during a homily a few weeks ago: “Faith is purpose plus optimism.”
I’ve been wondering about that line, wondering in what ways I could say the same thing about teaching, that teaching is also purpose plus optimism. Then is teaching an act of faith? As I explored these ideas during the breakout session, an image of the church congregation came to me, and soon, this poem:
Teaching as an Act of Faith
Jesus taught in parables.
The prodigal son, forgiven,
the lost sheep, always found.
I am not Jesus.
But when I look at their faces,
staring from their desks,
I imagine I see what a pastor sees
on Sunday mornings, bright and cold.
Some faces bored:
they’re not here, not really,
Their minds are elsewhere:
the baseball game that afternoon,
the list of groceries to be bought.
Others find distraction in the
But some faces are
I am not a pastor.
I am not Jesus.
But I have faith,
and so I try to lead.
This post is part of the Slice of Life Challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers, who have created a space for writers and teachers of writers to come together. To learn more about this challenge, click here.