Saturday, November 29, 2014

End of semester reflections and a poem, "Stones"

 End of semester reflections and a poem, "Stones"

                I’d often been asked odd questions before- one day a young Korean woman asked me what size shoe I wore and because I didn’t feel like answering, I launched into a talk on taboo questions in America.  Another day, a young Asian woman asked me, “Why do you teach?  It must be so boring- all those mistakes, those corrections.”  My answer was that I liked to learn. 

             I’ve been re-reading “Disgrace” and Coetzee’s main character reflects on that idea. “The irony does not escape him: that the one who comes to teach learns the keenest of lessons, while those who come to learn learn nothing.” I suspect my idea is not so much learning humility but worldliness, meaning cultures of the world and cultural norms outside of my own. That I have certainly found.  On one job interview I responded to a question saying I had probably taught students from most countries around the world.   

            I found a poem I’d written ages ago, perhaps when I was teaching at the University of Barcelona.  So often in those days I resented a poem lost as I stood in front of yet another classroom or a storyline I wanted to write down with so little time to do so.  These days I am softer, more appreciative of this work I chose and I have learned ever so much while enjoying myself.   Perhaps the teaching is what I will remember more.




Through the camel's eyelid,

one step off

the tree in bloom,

just out of reach

of day to day.

Freed from the cave,

I carry a sack of stones

to the classroom

to impart one by one

to the open mouths.

Outside, the softness

of the new

spring leaves


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