The Power to Teach

Aug 5, 2010 by

Yesterday I wrote about the power that we hold as teachers—the power to affect our students’ lives in amazing ways.  That reminded me of a poem I haven’t looked at in several years, so I dug it out to share with you.  I hope it is as inspiring to you as it is to me!

The Power to Teach

I feel sometimes powerless and small
overwhelmed and inadequate
engulfed
in thoughts and feelings
that perhaps what I am doing
is insignificant,
that my life’s pursuit,
that my teaching,
is futile.
And I say,
“Who am I to change the world?”
“Who am I to think
that I can make a difference?”

And then I reflect
on the young people
under my charge,
and I think about
my role and about what power,
if any, I have.
To a great extent
I determine
the curriculum.
And the richness
and intensity with which it
is taught
is in my hands.
And I have the ability
to think and to plan
and then to implement;
to select from my
repertoire of skills
the best one suited
to my purpose
yet still able
to adapt myself
to student needs
with the dexterity of an artisan.

Most adults would be fortunate
to last out one day
overseeing a roomful of kids.
My orchestration
makes enlightened music
of the chaotic din.
I guess you
could say
that is power!

And I can use my hands.
Turned up to lift them up,
or turned down
to keep them down.
And I have the power
to lead my students places
they did not know existed,
to build them back up
when society
tears them down,
to catapult them higher
than I myself will ever reach,
And to push them gently,
but assuredly,
in the unknown,
painting for them
in broad brush strokes
a future
I can never
hope to see.

Every day
I have the wherewithal
in my classroom
to build walls
or to build bridges
between the generations.
And it is
within my discretion
to design a rigid,
competitive structure
or a cooperative,
helping network
in my classroom.
I have an awesome power.

If I succeed
I pass knowledge
about what is important
to the next generation.
Mine is a present power
and a future power.
If I can reach
the children of today,
I touch the
children of tomorrow.

Mine is a
giving power.
All that I know
about the world
and about how
one learns
about the world
I must give.
And in the giving
of my gift
I receive
my greatest power:
the power to teach
my students
to learn how to learn.
Empowering them
is of the essence,
for if their teacher
feels sometimes
powerless and small,
how insignificant
must they
sometimes feel?

And when
the last day
comes,
and it is time for us to part,
we gather together,
say our good-byes
and separate.

After that
there is sadness
but a certain
contentment
that I am sure
only teachers feel.
It is a happiness
that comes from knowing
that a part of us
forever, transplanted,
lives…
no, thrives!
inside of each
individual who
has gazed at us
across tired brown desks
and called us
“Teacher.”

Even on a down day–
when I’m feeling puny
and insignificant–
even then I try hard
to remember
that all it takes
is one person
just one person!–
to make a difference
in their lives.

And,
there is no reason
in the world
that that person
cannot
and should not
be me!

I can make a difference!

That is my power.

That is the power to teach!

–Author Unknown

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