sharing poems, sharing stories, sharing lives

For a community builder this year, I tried something new by teaching a model text (“Where I’m From“) that students had to analyze and replicate. This was first and foremost a way for us all to share our stories and build connections with each other; the year’s learning will be built on those connections. It was also a way for me to pre-assess students’ poetry knowledge and introduce some important vocabulary for the year. Today we shared our poems in Circle–a Council practice we’re incorporating school-wide. Here’s mine.

“Where I’m From”

By Mrs. Davenport

 

I am from ivy wallpaper climbing up yellowed walls

From smoky fingers of cigarette haze and pungent Old Spice.

I am from the asymmetrical boxy house on the corner with the endless-to-be-

Mowed yard,

Where all my friends gathered for salty chips and high-fructose-corn-syrup-cookies.

I am from the spiraling green helicopters dancing to their rebirth

In the earth

And the liquored-fragrance of the blooming lilac bush.

 

I’m from Christmas Eve appetizer buffets in the corner of the cramped kitchen,

Served with the bitter taste of repressed anger,

From John David and Molly Aletha Mike,

From martyrdom and submission,

And from peacemaking the in-betweens.

 

I’m from “a watermelon will grow in your belly if you swallow that seed”

And “when it rains it pours” and “go apologize to your mother”

And from the low sway of “Locomotive.”

 

I’m from the children’s table—not the adult’s table—

At Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I’m from Chicago’s public schools then redeeming suburban schools,

And West Virgininian hills of Ireland,

Deviled eggs sprinkled with paprika and Mom’s famous peanut butter balls,

From sad Dad looking at his diseased and dying Mom through a metal fence

And barefoot strong Mom walking the hills of hidden mountain lions to school—

Barefoot.

I’m from 31 Flavors of ice cream and swing sets,

And from the postcards of a thousand unmet dream vacations.

a teacher’s prayer

To God,

Who teaches in the world, a most profound classroom,

Through life, a most effective curriculum,

Bless this classroom.

May students come into a space of light radiating from my heart, originating in You,

A place of belonging, rooted in You,

A place of empowerment, growth, achievement, victory, confidence, freedom, joy.

Bless this classroom,

That my words may be empowering,

My lessons memorable,

My purposes clear and inspiring,

My presence hopeful,

And my character—especially when offended—gracious.

May the students who call this room home for a year

Be kind to one another, lifting up rather than tearing down,

Breaking through barriers rather than ignoring them,

Creating connections that transform each person who enters and learns here.

May great learning happen here…

But above that…may abundant love bloom here.

Amen.

2014-2015 Vision Statement

cedc788cbb653242b2897cbedab4682eDear Incoming Senior Students:

To know me is to know my vision… my vision for you and for our year together.

First and foremost, I want our community to be built on solid relationships. I want to know each of you, not just as a student, but as a whole human being. I also want you to know each other in the same capacity. Learning happens in a web of human interactions, and I want our classroom to be a place which protects that fragile web. On this web, we weave patterns of trust and risk and safety and honor and joy and growth and authenticity–all the elements which make both the heart and brain soar.

And I have vision for how much your brain can soar. I want this year to be a year of growth–growth that surprises even you. I know you can do so much more than you believe you can, and I will hold you to that. I will not insult you by making the class easier or dumber or simpler. I will provide supports; I will model; I will energize; I will differentiate; I will teach in a variety of ways. But I will never let you get away with less than the glory I know is within each of you. I promise to push each of you to reach your wondrous potential.

My vision is for that glorious potential to shine through your reading, writing, thinking and speaking. I want you to put more pages under your belt than you ever have in a year. I want you to read college-level material. I want you to find yourself in characters and connect to their stories. I want you to be sad to finish a novel. I want you to write at an academic level. I want you to use advanced vocabulary and explain yourself thoroughly. I want you to get done with a paper and look up with a smirk and feel such a sense of pride. I want your thoughts to be critical and evaluative and connective and profound. I want you to ask analytical questions about everything–so much that you get sick of it. I want this kind of mind to be the key for you gaining power in a world that tries to oppress you. In seeing behind the curtain, you can kick the operator out, or at the very least rip the curtain so that you truly see. And I want you to confidently articulate all this meaningfully and professionally in college-level conversations. I want you to code-switch… to informally speak the language of the streets, or your people, or your culture, but also to have the ability to undermine and persuade and question the most intimidating of “others”–and to know when to speak in which way to get what you want.

And what do you want? I look forward to learning, supporting, this… and seeing you achieve. College acceptances. Scholarships. Career opportunities. Family pride. Self-worth. Independence. Self-sufficiency. Self-advocacy. Senior memories. My vision is that all of your individual successes and accomplishments become a collective smile on all our faces.

Our collective identity matters. I will come with my all each day…but somedays it will not be awesome, or perfect, or smooth, or enough. Somedays I will need YOU to step up and provide the energy, the leadership, the motivation. After all, this is YOUR education… and I want you to own that with all that is in you. This ownership prepares you to transition into the real world, where it is on your shoulders alone. My vision is that you are ready for that transition because you have practiced the ownership in my class.

But most of all, deepest of all, truest of all, my vision is that daily you enter and exit my room feeling loved. A Scripture says: “I loved you even before I knew you.” This is how I feel about all of you. You are my children. You are why I teach. You are what makes my heart sing. So in all our rigorous academic pursuits, I also want you to feel joy and peace and comfort and care in my room, from me, from each other.

Here’s to a great year of making this vision reality. With love,

Mrs. Davenport

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mind your sacrifices: looking at Leviticus through the lens of mindfulness

Mindfulness is all a buzz lately. Mindfulness can improve your health, improve decision making-skills, help cope with trauma, prevent succumbing to cravings, and even capitalize the O in your orgasm (dare I say mindfulness puts the O in your OM; ha! …couldn’t resist). Mindfulness is on the football field, in the medicine cabinets of vets, on my blog, and within classrooms. Mindfulness is so pervasive I found all these articles in a matter of minutes.

But mindfulness in Leviticus? Come on, no way. I mean Buddha wasn’t even around then (wink, wink). But this weekend in my camping chair, as I trudged through the decrees of cleanliness and uncleanliness, inclusion and exclusion, and lions, tigers, and bears, oh my, the list of sacrificial animals, I found myself as usual asking: Why? What would be God’s intention in making so many harsh rules? Especially, when in the end, Jesus fulfilled them all (amen to that mystery!) and criticized the people for offering empty sacrifices, “honoring God with their lips, but not with their hearts” (paraphrase of Matthew 15 mine). I know some of the responses to this question: hygiene, health, separation from the “others,” etc. But always those attempted-answers do not assuage the shock in my heart as I read a book like Leviticus.

But, as I wrestled with the idea that all this was for His people and not for Himself, my mind rested on a few key Scriptures:

You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean (10: 10)…

For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy (11:44).

To consecrate means to set apart, to distinguish as other, to separate and elevate. And is that not mindfulness? When I pause and mindfully eat, my food becomes sacred and not just calories. When I pause and set my intention on my mat, it becomes a sanctuary. When in a conversation and I mindfully stop, then respond, I am elevating my relationship with that person. When I settle into stillness on my swing, I invite God into that space. To consecrate, one must be mindful.

I’d venture this is part of what God intended. That when the leper was healed and came back to the camp, instead of just diving right back in, he would have to find the appropriate sacrifices, then offer them. This intentional, time-tasking, budget-demanding act was a transition back into community, a chance to be mindful about what has occurred in his/her life. While the anointing oil ran down the head, then neck, then shoulders of the priests, it was a chance to be mindful about their holy positions, as well as for the people watching. All these decrees forced His people to slow down, be present, and engage with what mattered most…an awareness of the Divine.

This, of course, does not answer all my questions about Leviticus and the law. But, I’m quite okay with that…

the questions are more invitations to be mindful.

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Hosea 6:6

 

Campsite: A Morning Benediction

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Rise, you steam from pottery-mug of dark roast,

curl your other-world whispers up and away.

 

Shine, you golden-fingers of sunlight,

forge your fractured path through the labyrinth-forest

and dew-drop-mirrors.

 

Dance, you moths or flies or nymphs,

whatever your magic is,

sprinkle joy in in the morning-air like cloud-confetti.

 

Play on, you liquid-symphony-stream,

raise your rushing flurry of applause, confident and

ceaseless.

 

Tease on, you fuzzy acrobat-squirrels,

cluck and chirp and rattle us in your mockery of ducks and birds and snakes,

safe in the playground of secret-branches.

 

Testify, you living-mosaic of God,

blanketing me under a glory-quilt,

breathing into all my senses,

reminding me of your indisputable Presence.

 

 

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