Courage to Teach

Jose Vilson Education

Teaching With FireEvery morning for a good 3 weeks or so, I’d been reading Teaching With Fire: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Teach, a poetry compilation compiled and edited by Sam Intrator and Megan Schribner. Even though I haven’t finished it just yet, it’s already one of my favorite books of the year, and will probably stay somewhere near me at all times. It’s inspired me to continue reflecting on my profession with my most cherished hobby, (poetry for those of you who just know me as a teacher).

I’ll keep it short this time around. Check the latest poem. It’s my gift to some new teachers.

“Courage to Teach” by Jose Vilson 2007 ©

Read all the jargon you can get your hands on.
Rely heavily on Dewey, Delpit, and Piaget
Ask your initialism-titled mentors, heads, bosses, and busy-bodies
About their experiences in the classroom
Their classroom management
Their subject matter, reader levels, best advice, and worst
Dream optimistically about the ideal classroom
And wax poetic about the wonderful changes you’ll make in
these children’s lives
Take notes in those fancy workshops and network with older heads
Using them as resources in case any issues of race, religion, and sex come up
Take advantage of the crazy sales at Staples, the TC Bookstore, and Bank Street
Shop till your newly inherited teacher look drops
I can just as readily write this advice on sand as on paper
Can prepare you for when you step into that classroom
Not even Montessori will rise from the dead to rescue you from your almost secured failure
Forget everything I’ve said and do remember the three things you absolutely
Inevitably need to pass the 180 days successfully:
Focus to discipline
Love to inspire
And courage to teach
To NOT change them, but help them grow in who they are
To have a vision and adapt it constantly to the ever-changing environment around you
To cherish the sweet and spare moments when the successes of your mentees lifts you above the masses
To pace around the classroom knowing your heels might fall from right under you
Your face will peel off and slide onto the floor
Your knees will lock in tightly
You will be stripped naked
To the point where you will need to grow you a new skin
Start from birth
It’s only in the moment when you discover how you learn that you can teach
Fear is your only anchor
You have been set out to sail with your soul as captain
Let courage crack a bottle on your ass
And it will do so when you’re not afraid to fail …