Saturday, 19 September 2015

Reaching the End of my Second Teaching Placement - A Poem of Gratitude

This week is going to be a tough week.  It's the last week of my second placement in school and marks another major step towards the dream of becoming a school teacher.  The time has passed by so very quickly.  In fact, this whole year is flying past.  It seems only like yesterday that I was stepping off the plane in New Zealand, having flown from the UK.  Only now, has a year passed since I first submitted my application for university in Wellington, at Victoria University.  One year ago, it was nothing but an uncertain dream.  Now, it is a dream that is approaching reality.

I have enjoyed immensely my time on this second placement.  The class I've been with have been amazing.  It has been a hugely enjoyable and rewarding experience.  At the beginning of this placement, I felt daunted, overawed, and overwhelmed by what lay ahead.  I questioned whether teaching was truly for me.  It would have been so easy to walk away, to follow the urge that told me to do so.  But I did not.  I stood firm and resolute and I told myself that I had to at least see this placement through to the end, and only then would I be in a position to know truly.  It is at times like these when I remember a passage in The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho that describes how we are tested as we approach the realisation of our dreams.  The universe tests us to see whether we are worthy, whether we have learned all that we needed to learn and discover, whether we are certain that this is our dream, and whether we believe in our path.

I am not there yet.  I still have courses to complete at university but one thing is now more certain in me than ever.  I was always going to be a teacher.  I have felt it for most of my life, hearing the call from afar, waiting until the moment when I knew I could deny myself the inevitable no longer.  I do not teach because I can, I teach because it is me, it is my life, and it is my dream. 

Here then, is the poem I wrote to the class as a memento of my stay with them.  I have purposely removed a few verses to protect anonymity of the children.  

A Poem for Room 12

Room 12 has been a truly incredible place to be
It’s full of learning, friendship, and true camaraderie
I’ve had such fun with you all I never would have guessed
I hope you don’t remember me as a terrible, awful, nasty pest.

Remember at the beginning and we made a juggling ball?
I think we had a lot of fun; at least that’s what I recall
Balloons, rice and a little bag, colours and designs were made
Together we ventured out with them and in the playground we played.

We read a book by Roald Dahl called the BFG
About dreams and giants and girl whose name was Sophie
We thought about the dreams we have and whether they could come true
In our books, we wrote them down and shared our point of view.

What imaginations you really have to see such wondrous things
Fluffy unicorns, vampire bats, and a golden boot that sings?
Some were likely, some were certain and some that just could not be,
I thought all were amazing and brilliant, and explored some probability.

When you see yourself in the mirror, there’s a reflection looking back at you
And down the centre, right in between, there’s a line that divides the two
We used contrasting colours and paper folded in two or four
To show our lines of symmetry so they showed up even more.

Cut out a circle of paper and then you fold it one, two three
Take a piece of pizza pie and trace your design so you see
Rotate around, rotate around, rotate around that’s the key
If you fit in more times than one, you've got rotational symmetry.

Now, how to find your way around I wonder if you know?
East, south, west, north, please tell me it’s not so.
The compass needle always points to the north and after that it’s east
Never Eat Soggy Weetbix always remember that at least!

What shapes we found and placed them together with no gaps in between
To make some wonderful patterns, the best that I’d ever seen
Now what do we call it?  What name could it be?
Why it was tessellation of course! Oh silly, silly me.

How do you write instructions, please tell me what you need
Begin with a title that says it all and sows a little seed
Next you add a description and maybe a picture or two
Follow the steps you find below and you’ll know just what to do.  

In the mornings after a little maths we took ourselves under the sea
With a special room 12 brain break created just for you, by me
We looked around, we saw such fish, and wonders of the deep
And after we had finished, there was not a sign of sleep!

We learned about cause and effect on the oceans you recall?
How pollution, over fishing, and climate change are problems for us all
We need to act, we need to think about what it is we do
So in the future this planet of ours we still have seas of blue.

And in those seas the fish will swim and the whales will blow and dive
All of the life below the surface will multiply and thrive
We need the krill, we need the sharks, we need the tuna and wahoo
Because without those last fishy types, what’s the cookie cutter shark to do?

Now here we are, it’s come at last, the end of my short stay
Room 12 you’re the most wonderful people, and I know you’ll always be that way
And even though I’ll be gone, the memories, well they can never fade
Because you created for me, the best most brilliant dream that was ever made.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Haunted by the Past, Driven to the Future

This is a poem inspired by the ghost of the past and how it can continue to haunt us, even years later.  Some events occur in our lives that become so deeply rooted in our psyche, embedded within the fibre of our beings, that we are forever fighting against them.  It's as if they are always there, ready to taunt us at any moment with the memory of what was.  I remain haunted by my other self, the boy that I was once, even though the man is so very different. 

But what I find most remarkable about this is the thought of where my life would be without my ghost of the past?  It is partly due to my ghost that I am who I am today, I am where I am today.  My ghost may haunt my every moment, but it also drives me forward, urging me to be a better person and to always seek out my the dreams of my heart.  How I was as a boy has taught me compassion, caring, and empathy.  I see it as goodness, perhaps tinged with a small patch of dark.  The dark can never consume the light and as long as I follow and listen to my heart, the light will always shine forth.  The light of love can never be broken nor defeated.

Me In The Mirror
There I am
My reflection
But not me
The boy
I see him still
Ever present
An endless chase
I run
Yet there he is
Whenever I look
Reminding me
Of who I was
What I was
Fat, ugly
Outside no more
And inside?
I'll never be rid
Of this companion
A constant reminder
That plagues me
Alters my behaviour
He has strength
And power
We fight
A never ending
Struggle of wills
He is me
I am him
We are one
The same
Lost apart
And there I stand
Man and boy
Me in the mirror.


Sunday, 6 September 2015

The Cry of the Mountain

The Cry of the Mountain

I woke up and I was giddy with excitement and euphoria. I knew what it was I wanted to do! But then I looked at how difficult it would be to begin, I saw the mountain towering above me, and as I gazed toward its lofty summit, I knew that it would be impossible to reach it. "Madness!" I thought, "Utter madness to even think I could do it." I started to turn away and as soon as did, I began to feel a sense of relief wash over me as the mountain slowly faded from my sight, and with it, my dream, like the leaves of autumn, falling slowly around my feet to be lost, and reborn in another time and another life.

In that moment of turning, through the waves of relief that washed over me, I sensed something else. I caught the sound of faint cries carried on the wind. I paused to listen because my instinct told me that someone was in great distress, someone was out there, floundering and lost, and if I could do it, then I was going to help them. The cries were coming from behind me, from the very place on which I had just turned my back. I felt a compulsion to keep going, to ignore this cry for help, but I could not. I had to turn around and to see what I could do.

The act of turning would not come and I stood, frozen in space and time, as the last cry echoed and died away around me. I knew that if I did turn, towering high above me and bearing witness to my cowardice, would be the mountain that I knew not how to climb. I was caught in hesitation between that which scared me and the cries for help, and the compulsion to keep going, with my back at the mountain, and to ignore everything and to pretend it had never happened, that I had not heard the voice.  The cry came again only this time, although it was fainter, I could discern its urgency and dire need.  

I cannot explain why I did what I did.  I've looked back upon this moment in the times since and I am still unable to say what happened.  I recall taking a step away from the mountain only to stumble at taking a second.  It felt as though the entire universe was watching me at that very moment, I could feel the weight of its gravity pushing down with such crushing force, piercing my soul with its gaze.  For an instant I stopped.  There had been no further cry for help and perhaps it was this that gave me pause.  All I know is that pause I did and it felt like the universe held its breath in unison. I moved again, only it was not to take a step forwards as I had been expecting, it was to turn myself about, to look upon the lofty peak of that impenetrable mountain once more.  

I waited and listened for the cry, my eyes searched the trees, scanned the lower levels of the mountain, looking for anything that would give me a clue as to the location of the helpless victim. I saw no one, I heard no one.  I walked forward a few paces altering the angle at which I was looking into the trees, hoping that perhaps I would see some colour that would indicate an item of clothing.  Nothing.  I stepped forward a little more, scanning the mountain ridges, looking at the gullys, fixing my eyes on the trees. Still there was no one.  I decided that I would give it up, that I had perhaps heard the cries of an eagle or some other bird of prey on the wind, on the hunt.  I looked once more time and then I saw it.

There, in among the darkness of the trees was an opening I had not seen before.  Could it be the way through?  I tried my best to guess the direction it would take through the forest and I lifted my eyes up to scan the lower slopes of the mountain. There!  Could it be?  It was almost too good to be true.  What looked like a trail, barely visible, wound its way up the mountainside for some distance before disappearing.  I could not have seen it from where I had been standing before.  It only became clear once I had taken a few steps toward the mountain.  

I began to walk forwards.  I do not recall being aware of this until suddenly, looming up before me stood the trunks of the ancient and mighty trees in the forest.  Now I stopped once more, not in hesitation but so I could remember this moment.  I turned and looked back from whence I had come and I saw that already I had travelled some distance along the path.  Perhaps it would become harder now.  I tightened my pack, took a deep breath and plunged forwards into the forest, into the unknown, taking one step then another along the path.  

It was then I heard the laughter all around, coming from everywhere all at once and I knew that the laughter was from the same person who had cries out in distress before.  I smiled and then I too laughed and I laughed with great and profound joy.  There had never been anyone else.  The cries, just as with the laughter had come from within myself.  My heart had spoken, my heart had known the suffering that would have occurred had I walked away from the mountain, and it had known that my dream would have been lost, perhaps forever.  Now, it was full of joy because at long last we were together making the journey, our journey.  We were on the path towards our dreams.  Perhaps we would never reach the top of the mountain.  Perhaps the trail would stop part way up.  But at least now I was going to find out.  I would discover all there was and I might find out more than I could ever have realised.  This was an adventure.  Together, my heart and I, we were on the path.  We were on our true path, and now the possibilities were endless.