Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Educator Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot speaks so eloquently about RESPECT that I had to post some of her ideas here -- even though she doesn't write directly about poetry, I feel like so much of what she says has to do with real learning that lives inside relationships.

Lawrence-Lightfoot speaks about the educator as a "public adult" -- intense, wise, and generous, who enacts values through "authentic inclusivity" -- not just the rhetoric. The educator must bridge the gap between expressed values and daily actions, addressing the "ghosts of disrespect," both oblique and obvious, who haunt our school hallways and lives. She notes the "micro-aggressions" of the everyday that get in the way of enacting a compassionate culture with respect as the cornerstone. She insists that healing be a central part of education and that genuine interest in the lives of our students -- wanting to know and be known -- makes us vulnerable and open enough to hear difficult ideas and live the questions of our time. Endless curiosity is at the core of all meaningful relationships. To exist, we must be visible, and made visible by those around us. Finally, respect is about 1/symmetry, 2/relationship, 3/civility, and 4/storytelling. Respect is relational and generative.


Poetry is like a bird flying in the clouds
Poetry is Sofia sitting on a buffalo
Poetry is like a duck in a flower
Poetry is like an eye full of fire
like a wind making music
Painting without paint
When a person hits another person and they die
A world full of blind people
sitting in the park at night
Is like Sofia sitting in jail
Is like a dog chasing a mouse

Mary S. Columbus Elementary School 4th grader, "Poetry is..." workshop


I soar through the sky looking
for dark poetry. I feast on dark poetry books.
The defenseless books beg for mercy.
I might spare 1 or 2 but no more.
I can see nothing but books and blood.
If I were ever confronted
by a holy poetry book, I would die
and hopefully I would remake a memory
forever, but till then, I will forever feast
upon dark poetry.

I hold the paper on a tilt
so the black, bitter ink slides
into my mouth, my lips are black
like the woods at night, but as silent
as a shadow. My veins turn black
as I devour the ink
on the ghost white page.

Alejandro and Luke, 4th grade (2001-2002)

Written in a poetry residency at Columbus Elementary School, Chicago, IL after reading Billy Collin's "Eating Poetry"