May 6, 2010

Introducing: The Teacher

Ask a simple question, a simple answer isn't always best, sometimes the best answer is a story.  This seems to be a recurring theme here at the Books for Walls Project. Rather than a description/bio like the rest of us --we'll introduce The Teacher, with this quick story:

Last year Mrs. Barrett (which I call her because, you see, I was one of her students) celebrated a birthday and on this occasion crafted a letter to share "who I am as I see me."  Within those precious pages were stories and poetry, one of those poems (written by Lynn) is the perfect way to introduce you to Lynn Barrett, Lynn, Mom, Grandmother, Friend or --as we will refer to her here at Books for Walls: The Teacher.   

The assignment (The Teacher used to give this to her senior AP students while they were busy filling out college applications) we pulled the assignment from the University of Chicago Website:

The instructor said,
Go home and write
a page tonight.
And let that page come out of you—
Then, it will be true.
—“Theme for English B” by Langston Hughes
Perhaps you recognize this poem. If you do, then your mind has probably moved on to the question the next line poses: “I wonder if it’s that simple?” Saying who we are is never simple (read the entire poem if you need evidence of that.) Write a truthful page about yourself for us, an audience you do not know— 
The Teacher's Completed Assignment, her Poem:
I was a 1929 Depression baby
born and raised in Detroit
of parents born and raised in Detroit
of forebears born and raised in
Germany, England, France -- via Canada, and Native America.

Except for third grade in a public school
and one summer at Harvard,
educated in pre-Vatican II Catholic schools
through a master's degree--
where I never quite fit in--
I don't quite know why.

Perhaps because I am shy--
I don't quite know why.
A third generation teacher,
and a teacher by nature and calling;
a wife at 35,
a mother at 36,37 and 38,
a widow at 74, and a grandmother at 75,
but always a teacher--
and always alone,
aware that's the human condition.

Sometimes I hear a voice,
sometimes only silence.
Sometimes the silence is empty;
sometimes the silence is full.
I strive to be obedient.
And when the silence is overwhelming,
I try to be accepting.
And when the silence is awe-full,
I rest and rejoice in its gift.

I listen to the voices around me
and sometimes I hear what they're saying,
often I hear what they're not saying;
and I plumb the depths of the secret place within me
for compassion and wisdom.

Always seeking,
I get up each new morning
and put one foot in front of the other
and try to live out that day awake.

Now here am I,
having responded to that voice,
listening to you--
listening to me--
"...yearning to breathe free..." 
Please join us in Welcoming The Teacher, we are so very happy to have her join us at the Books for Walls Project!   
If you feel inclined to write your own Theme for English B, by all means, share it (for the full assignment University of Chicago version of the Assignment, click here.)

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