Moments With Kids

I was volunteering this afternoon in the Grade 5/6 class.  What I most enjoy about teaching is the conversation, especially when it’s just me and one child.  Had a few of those today.

Jayne loves having the students give Book Talks, the chance to share the author’s thoughts and the reviewer’s reactions with classmates.  She asked me to visit kids and record the title of their next book, and to mark down what page they were on.  Just two simple questions but I enjoyed the connection so much.  From child to child to child … moments of eye contact and often the sharing of a book cover.  Perfect.

Jayne talked about limericks, and how silly and fun this type of poetry can be.  How wonderful that there’s a place in education for lightness and laughing.  She had the kids read seven limericks and deduce from the examples what the principles of this poetic form were.  Marvelous!  Far better than listing “the rules of limericks” on the board.

One young man – “Trevor” – told me that the last words of lines 1 and 5 were always the same.  As it turns out, that wasn’t quite accurate, but it certainly was a tendency of limericks.  Later, Trevor left the room for awhile, just as the discussion of limerick rules was starting.  I hadn’t noticed what Trevor had, and I could feel the urge to blurt out his idea without giving him credit for it.  Happily, I squashed that plan and told the students about “Trevor’s insight”.  And that felt so good, to acknowledge him, even in his absence.

Later I got to coach individual kids as they wrote their poems.  A limerick has three “beats” in lines 1, 2 and 5, and two in lines 3 and 4.  It was such a delicate process to sit with a child and have her see that “He decided to go to the moon” wouldn’t work for a line 3, while “He went to the moon” got the job done beautifully.  We counted out the beats together and I loved it when the child felt the rhythm in her own poem.  Those “ah hah” moments are joyous ones for any teacher.

I love being in that class.  Being next to the energy of young minds and hearts is the best.  Hearing from a girl how sad she was that some people and animals have become sick due to cropdusting … is a blessing.  May we all grow in compassion and insight.  And may those 10-, 11- and 12-year-olds turn into adults who express their highest values long after I’m gone from the planet.



Friendly Reflections

My friend writes very long e-mails.  Here is my continuing reply to her:

“Dear ______,

Thank you for talking to me about Jody [my wife, who died of lung cancer in November, 2014].

‘I saw that you and Jody were not separate. That she was inside you, there with you, or vice versa, but I thought I saw or felt that you two were truly one, and that death had not rendered you asunder. That was the feeling that I experienced. And I felt that when I met you, I met Jody as well, and that she was not gone. She was well alive in you. It was so beautiful and inspiring and soft and true feeling.’

Jody and I talk every day.  I realize that most people don’t accept this as a reality, and I wish them well.  But our conversations are real.  How marvelous that you’ve met Jody standing beside me.  When you receive a copy of the book I wrote about her, you’ll see her beautiful face on the cover.  She’s cheering me on, ______, wanting me to experience all the beauty that life has to offer.  Jody also knows that I will continue to have the dark times that show up for all of us.  She tells me, though, that I am bigger than the fear and sadness.  And I believe her.

It makes me happy to realize that my lovely wife continues to give, in the pages of our book, yes, but also in some mysterious ways unknown to the rational mind.  And I wonder if she has been reborn in some two-year-old who will enter my life soon with gifts to give.

‘I feel my father’s presence. He was such a wonderful man Bruce, not unlike yourself. He and his whole family adopted me before I was born, because my mother had gotten pregnant from another man who had then run away. My father, who had always had a crush on her, stepped in and was there when I was born. He was a very good man as was his whole family. Not rich. Not super educated, but good, humble people who were able to love! And so I was able to have a wonderful father!’

How lovely, ______.  It’s so clear that your dad was able to love.  He wasn’t  going to have a young girl grow up without a father.  It makes me think of all the generosity that lives in the people I meet on the sidewalk, at school, in the Belmont Diner.  Perhaps there’s a veil covering the quiet heroism but maybe I can pull it gently to the side to gaze upon the shining soul within.  I need to have the eyes to see.

‘Everywhere people are trying to save their lives from delusion and aversion and embrace love, understanding and forgiveness and the beautiful reality underneath “the world”.’

I was talking to a farmer today. He loves his life on the land.  He’s 78 and knows he’d die soon if he let go of his work.  He struggles with taxes and the market for his grain and the vagaries of weather, but he’s home.  He doesn’t go to retreats.  He doesn’t read spiritual books, I’d guess.  But he’s touching the beautiful reality of which you speak.

What a gift your e-mail is, ______, and your friendship.  I love sitting down with one other person and talking about stuff that matters.  You are one of those people.

With love,