Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Teacher's Jewels: An Ode to Remember

The inspiration for this poem is the many teachers in my own life, both those who taught me in school and church, as well as the teachers whose blood runs through my veins.  Generations of women in my family have taught from one room school houses to large high schools filled with bureaucratic demands and huge class sizes. 

I hope you read this, with your minds eye seeing all of the teachers who have touched your life. Whether you are close enough to leave a physical remembrance with them, or far away in space or time, and so only offer a thought or prayer can help remember them, please remember them. I offer this poem, an ode, to all of the teachers who shape the world, as they polish, smooth and give us the mental and physical discipline to become the adults we have become.

A Teacher's Jewels

Around the neck -
Looped three times,
And still,
Hanging almost to her waste:
Precious stones of all colors -
Diamonds of bright light,
Clouded jade of determination,
Brilliant lapis with sliding lines
Of imperfections -
All adding to the value of the stones.

Mixed between the bright jewels are:
Imperfect stones of polished agate,
Soft sandstone easily shaped,
Beads of rolled paper -
Some Newsprint and paste,
Some fabric - calicoes and gingham,
Polished glass washed up on the beach of life.

All with the tiny holes of love -
Painstakingly drilled into the hearts of the children
Whose love the teacher has earned
One refining lesson at a time.

Failure turned to triumph!
In the extra moment of explanation and discovery,
At the time when firmness is love,
Challenges laid down so each child could triumph!
As each is drilling deeper into themselves,
To find the beauty - already recognized -
By a teacher who collects children's hearts.

Taking the time and patience,
Always needed,
She refines and shapes them for a time.

Revealing the jewel of infinite worth,
Hiding behind grubby faces, empty stomachs, and growing minds,
Creating a legacy for student and teacher alike -
A length of beauty to garnish the soul of the teacher.

Her riches come from the stones
and beads she collects,
On her way,
Gratefully given by the students
 She has loved and taught.
Her small token, retained, 
Only a grain of sand, from the beach
Of the heart of each child.
The looping string of the necklace,
Whose beauty adorns,
A well loved teacher!      

This is especially dedicated to Nancy Johnson, my 4th grade teacher at Mount Pleasant, who also became a true friend, as I became an adult.  

(Nancy died too young, just a few years into retirement, in a freak accident in a surprise snow storm, ten years ago. The school was closed down at the end of last year, also too young.  My son finished grade school there, but the twins will finish at another school, and while the teachers there are good too, a piece of my heart aches that if school budgets had held out a few more years they could have done choir, maybe band, and been crossing gurads, in the same rooms, on the same streets, with the same murals on the wall, that defined grade school for me.)  

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't owe to her. She was the first to see beyond my hard work, to the talent of my mind, and the trouble in my heart. She gave me the chance to excel, and to believe in myself. I know that I am not the brightest or most beautiful bead or stone in her necklace, and yet I can say that each day I am aware of being linked to her, even though she is no longer a phone call away. Now I simply have the chance to send her prayers and love, in the same way we all give them back to our teachers, by living and loving well, and doing a little good in the world.    

The story that got me thinking about this, and led to the poem can be found at A Christmas Gift for Teacher. While Ardis, at Keepa, may not be a teacher in the conventional sense, her classroom, at Keepa, is most definitely one of the places where I have honed my love for new ideas, explored new topics, and been gently reprimanded, all with the love and grace that any teacher would be proud of.  I would like to one day sit down for a "spiritual lunch" with Nancy and Ardis, and have the honor of spending time talking, laughing, and learning from one another.  It won't happen in this life, but I am sure that sometime in the eternities, we will all find time.


  1. Julia, this is so lovely and heartbreaking all at the same time. Thank you for sharing your love through the gift of poetry. As a teacher, I can say that this poem speaks TRUTH.

  2. I have heard from several other people that they too are glad to have had good teachers, who kept a piece of their hearts because, by the end of the year it belonged to them.

    I was blessed with good teachers, those who held the title officially, and those who taught me by simply living. :-)

  3. An excellent longtime teacher is retiring. This poem matches the gift we are giving to her, one jewel bead for each child she has taught in her 23 years. May I have permission to print this poem and present it with her gift?

  4. Yes Janene, you have my permission to do that. I would love to be able to post picture with her gift, and a written tribute, if you think that would be meaningful. If you would like to include the information on Nancy Johnson, or the entire post, you are welcome to.


Comments Are Always Welcome! You don't need to agree to have something great to say!

Please be respectful to yourself and to others. Offensive language, personal attacks and spam will be deleted.