It was one of those days where the kids had groaned at just about everything I brought out for school. Released from the school room into the backyard, they had piled onto the trampoline where they were basking in the sun. They were definitely hoping to stay put for the rest of the afternoon. I checked my lesson plans. Poetry day. I immediately started to come up with excuses for skipping it this time. It’s not a good day. They’ve worn me out. I won’t be able to handle another groan. I’m turning them off to learning and should just take a break. But then I thought, why have all these lesson plans if I’m not going to at least try to use them? We have the time. We need to do poetry day.
So I gathered up the books and headed out to the trampoline. We’ll sit in the sun together and read! Groans and more groans. Threats if the groans didn’t stop right there. I read from two books to blank stares. No one laughed at the funny poems. The sun beat down on us and I could barely read for the glare. Can we go just back to playing now, Mom? No, I think we need to go inside to finish up. Groans started up again, and more threats to make the groaning stop.
The last poem I was supposed to read was “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night,” by Dylan Thomas. I thought, maybe I should just let the little ones go. Kindergarteners hardly need to worry about melancholy Welsh poets. But, this is our vision here–all of us learning together, and poetry is one of the few subjects where we can still do that with the wide variety of ages we have now. So I read the poem. The first time nobody said anything. I asked if they understood what “that good night” meant, and William did. I read it again. I was just about to close the book and sigh a big sigh of relief that we were done for the day when Marie (the kindergartener) piped up, “I think we should go gentle into that good night. Aren’t we supposed to want to be with Jesus in heaven?”
And Ben (the other kindergartener) answered, “No! I don’t want to die! We should fight to stay alive!”
And a whole great big deep discussion ensued between my kindergarteners and the big boys about accepting death and loving life all at the same time.
Now I haven’t posted but maybe twice in the last six weeks, and you all know what that means as to how life is going these days! But this was a great moment, one that made me glad to be home with these kids and our piles of books.
The poem came from A Child’s Introduction to Poetry:
The book comes with a CD of all the poems, which we’ve been listening to over and over in the car the past few days. Everyone was fairly disturbed by Browning’s “Pied Piper of Hamelin” and delighted by Macbeth’s witches: “Double, double, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble…”
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