The Darkness and the Light

Their program nearly over, the student teachers settled in
and waited for the start of their last class.
All in eager anticipation; careers set to begin,
yet still amazed at just how quick the year had passed.

The work was finished so they figured that this would be the time and place
to say goodbyes and and on the year to reminisce.
But to their great surprise they learned that wouldn’t be the case.
The prof said, “I’ve been waiting for the chance to ask you this.”

Was this a joke? No, she was serious.There would be no chit chat.
So, they sat up straighter and gave to her their full attention,
thinking, “what on earth could be so all important that
she left it right until the very end to mention?”

Without a word the lights she turned off, the window blinds she closed
and then went and softly shut the door so tight.
And in the silent, unlit room the question then she posed,
“tell me please, when does the darkness become light?”

It was as if the clock had stopped; nobody made a sound.
All sat waiting, thinking, “I don’t want to be the one to answer this.”
But time did pass and the realization slowly came around:
someone would have at least to offer up a guess.

Now, quite a few of them engaged in a game of second guessing,
thinking that to find the answer would not be all that hard.
And on this last day perhaps she’d planned one final simple lesson.
Yet, the quiet stillness of the room had caught them all off-guard.

A first attempt, was offered up, “Wait, I think I know.
It’s when the words within our books then can be seen.
So truth and knowledge can finally on our students be bestowed.
And, best of all, new insights and subtleties be gleaned.”

She shook her head, no, uh-uh then at what she’d heard,
saying, “who says reading is a thing they’ll even want to do?
So many find their truth and live without the printed word.
And aren’t books best when guided by insight and wisdom too?”

Some were now perplexed but then there came another try.
“It’s when the class can see the notes and such I put upon the board,
and pass out gems of knowledge, their consideration to apply,
so precious facts to their growing memories then can all be stored.”

But shook her head again, retorting, “it’s not at all just about you.
And you should never equate the act of teaching with that of telling.
You’ve got to guide, help and demonstrate; yes, all of that is true.
But it’s what your students can perform that should be the most compelling.”

One student, braver than the rest, offered up one last response.
“It’s when they can see my classroom and all the wonders that it holds
and my students in their courses can thus find themselves ensconced,
and feel the magic of the learning that inside there unfolds!”

But she shook her head again and said, “no, that’s still not just quite it.
Each of your classes are important but they’re not the only one.
Our subjects are mere elements of a much larger kit.
It’s more than just your stuff that counts considering the long run.”

Nothing was said til at some length, once more the prof resumed,
“You’re wondering what was wrong with what you said?
Frankly, the answer is ‘nothing much’; they were as clever as you’d assumed.
It’s just that your words did not quite jive with what was in my head.”

“The need for guidance and compassion was far from in your sights.
Then you put yourselves out front, when it’s students who matter most.
And you were fixated on what divides and not on what unites.
It’s as if the differences were what had you all engrossed.”

While she spoke the student teachers became increasingly aware
of how their eyes had become accustomed to the light so low.
And looking around, a simple truth began to become clear,
and through it all a bunch of smiles did glow.

And in the ever-rising light, her voice continued, “You’d
best bear in mind it’s not just about how to earn a living.
School is about learning how to build a life that’s good.
And for instilling in our young folk all the the joy that comes from giving.”

“So it’s best to recognize those gathered all around
share and walk much of the path that lies in front of you.
And, like you, endeavour to pursue a life that’s sound
while to themselves always remaining true.”

“When you are able to discern the commonalities
and let them be the guide to your insight,
then recognize that the school unites us all in family:
that is when the darkness becomes light.”

Each year, at their year – end gala, I do a recitation for outgoing graduates of the Intermediate / Secondary teacher education program at Memorial University of Newfoundland, my place of work. The above is this year’s installment.

9 thoughts on “The Darkness and the Light

  1. Mary

    I love this story poem and I am sure your students truly enjoyed and appreciated it also . You put so much thought and care into you do for them . You are truly a teacher with a sincere vocation and now teaching students the most important thing about being a teacher. At my school each year we as a community come up with a theme for the year beyond the subject that the teacher will incorporate into every area of the curriculum such as resilience , icare , compassion , etc and they truly take to it and appreciate it as do their families. I really admire educators and teachers . I’ve had so many excellent ones and have worked with so many gifted ones. I am wondering if it would be ok to share this with my school either in our weekly bulletin or at a staff meeting. I won’t attempt to recite it as I don’t have your oratorical presence but as a handout. We have our retreat at the end of august and some new students joining us as this year we had a number of retirees so if ok I’d love to share and inspire

    1. It was a lot of fun to do. Each year it’s a bit harder to come up with the ideas. Each year it’s that much harder to learn it “off by heart.” I still do, though and it’s always worth it

  2. Parting words for the newly grads. I always enjoy listening to the voice that will provide guidance on what education is all about. As you said well, it’s about giving.

  3. Hey there Maurice. Very true. If I sit calmly, and distill all that I did for nearly 30 years in the business of higher education … I see that you are correct. The best-in-teaching isn’t the facts or the formulae … it’s not the exams or the dissections … it’s all about what we, as educators … and real people (most students don’t recognize that we are people too), can teach our students about being good and responsible citizens. We teach them how to go about answering questions – all sorts of questions … not necessarily the ones we ask. Nicely done. PS: The most lasting part of my academic career has been the deep friendships I have forged with a few of my students – they have become like family (maybe even better).

    1. So very nice to hear from you, Dave! Perhaps our creative pens are not as active as they once were… For now… But we’re still out there at it. Sadly much of what I want to write about is that which is happening in my space day by day. That said, I’ve been gone from my previous life now for 5 years and can now see a day when this, too, will be behind me. Then the writing will start again. Hoping all is well with you and your family too.

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