Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
The poet Rumi wrote: “Let the beauty we love be what we do. With a new school year underway, many teachers are being drawn into their classrooms by this feeling of love.
We think about it morning edition, too.
“I love my job, and my job, of course, is to change the world, one word at a time,” says NPR Poet-in-Residence Kwame Alexander.
morning edition asked listeners to send us poems outlining their hopes for the upcoming school year.
And came more than 400 poems – from parents, students and teachers. In one, a student pledged to listen more carefully to his teacher. In another, the writer imagined learning to drive this year. Many teacher submissions echoed a singular promise: to be there for their students – and for themselves.
Alexander took submissions and stitched them into a community-sourced poem – embracing all the anxiety, anticipation and excitement that the first days of school can bring.
Read Alexander’s poem, titled This year will be different or listen to it above.
This year will be different
I want to teach my children that there is still a hopeful future
And that children like them – stubborn and bent and eccentric and kind –
Will get there.
I want to wipe away their tears
Face all their fears
Enter the need
Give them voice and choice,
seek to employ
a house of greater joy.
So stop good teachers from leaving.
‘Cause we’re scaffolding someone
a softer society
This year, I promise to
Paper on the stain on the wall
Find another student desk in the hall
Fill up on the Band-Aid near the door
Stock up on spare snacks – peanut free! – be certain
Sorting and organizing the knowledge of centuries
in a learning management system;
Classify the papers,
Organize your backpack when the papers are unfolded
Sit with you as you rage against the world
Focus on the big questions
in a culture of rapid responses.
You see, this year
colleges to visit
teachers to bore,
math to do
Teachers to seduce
essays to write
Sources to cite
Important people to look in the eye
Quiz to complete, try not to make a mistake.
Gotta learn to drive, learn to slam the brakes
My room is messy, I have a bed to make.
Daily habits to teach
Parents that I will need to reach
And as soon as I have a minute
I can just ask an author to visit
I have friends to make
Long tests to pass
a new hairstyle
homework to do,
so no haiku
sports to practice
exams to kill
birthdays to celebrate
And debates to moderate
meals to make
breaks to take
There are dreams to believe
And goals to achieve
And all the time
I need to keep my smile
I have to learn from my oversights
So life can be full of many delights
I have many doors to open.
Lessons to plan – make them engaging.
Children to take care of – make them feel welcome.
Build communities — make them feel safe.
This year I will smell the grass and the leaves,
breathe the air that blows through the trees
Take a step back, and realize that I also have myself to please.
This year, I will try to make many quick decisions.
And try to keep hope alive to avoid any mental collision.
Reaching young children. Be a star.
Go down low. Look in the eyes.
and by and by
Turn on the air purifier,
Open a window to release yesterday’s air.
Make this room a place where we ignite possibility.
It’s been a week and I already
labeled all the folders, arranged our chairs in fours
Laminated soothing posters, hanging in a hallway outside the door
A neighbour’s old armchair, a soft pillow to cuddle
I put them in the corner next to the donated mat
I completed my compliance training in no time
Discover the immaculate wellness room, our new paradigm
I printed the lists, found the copy room
I sent the boss my schedule, including links to Zoom
I have chocolate on my desk and coffee pods on the shelf
This year we are going to do it: take care of our mental health
This year will be different
I’m going to queue
Raise my hand,
listen to my teacher.
learn the new program
welcome to my students
I will flourish
I want to show them that they are worth it,
That no skin, muscle, heart, mind,
or their way of loving makes them less worthy,
that the world is full of a beautiful variety,
that the loss of one is painful for all,
that listening is a gift to the other,
speaking is an act of courage,
that believing is as vital as breathing
discovering is more important than knowing
that loving is more important than being right
But if I had to choose just one thing
I think I’d be happy if I could just be with friends
and somehow find myself.
This community poem was created using submissions from (in alphabetical order):
Liam Alsbury, San Luis Obispo, CA
Mary Arguelles, West Reading, Pennsylvania
Sydney Bastian, Ijamsville, MD
Naomi Bosman, Valparaiso, IN
Lucy Bullington, Phoenix, AZ
Shannon Daly, West Hartford, Connecticut
Jill DeTemple, Dallas, TX
Diane Fingers, St. Peters, Missouri
Bethany Gorman, Houston, TX
Pam Gower, Haslett, Mich.
Usiah Greene, Williamsburg, Virginia
Cadence Hornsby, Morton, IL
Devan Kalra, Houston, TX
Chrissy Macso, Akron, Ohio
Emily Marvel, Boston, MA
Carolyn McCarthy, Houston, TX
Blake Mellencamp, Indianapolis, IN
Neva Foy Neva, Fort Collins, CO
Madison Podesta, Gilbert, AZ
Jing Qiu, St. Louis, Missouri
Autumn Sadovnik, Reisterstown, MD
Mary Sitze, Amherst, MA
Nathan Smith, Peton, CO
Eva K. Sullivan, Silver Spring, MD
Brett Vogelsinger, Bucks County, Pennsylvania
Leslee Wagner, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania
This story was edited and produced by Reena Advani, Nell Clark, Jacob Conrad, Shelby Hawkins, Marc Rivers and Jeevika Verma.