Forever Beginning

Admittedly, I have never loved poetry.  I think a big part of this is that I thought that I always had to analyze it the “right way.” I was always taught to determine what the author’s message was as if there was only one answer,  which is why I felt so validated when I read the article from the poet who shared that she could answer the questions on a test about her own poems. Sara Holbrook acknowledges:

These test questions were just made up, and tragically, incomprehensibly, kids’ futures and the evaluations of their teachers will be based on their ability to guess the so-called correct answer to made up questions.

My point with all of this is that even though my experience with poetry didn’t quite foster a love or reading or analyzing it and sharing my thoughts about it are not necessarily in my “comfort zone”, I read a poem recently that resonated for a few reasons that I wanted write about.

I started a new job recently at the Buck Institute and after 41/2 years at the University of San Diego, this was a big move that thankfully has proven to be a great move. I have met some great people and I am learning a ton. At my first staff meeting last week, we read a poem, Begin.  We all read it individually, jotted down some thoughts, and shared our reflections in small groups. New team + analyzing poems = pushing my comfort zone. So in the spirit of forever beginning, I not only read a poem and analyzed it- I am sharing my thoughts with all of you even though I am sure there are some English teachers who will argue it isn’t “right.”

The final stanza really resonated with me:

Though we live in a world that dreams of ending
that always seems about to give in
something that will not acknowledge conclusion
insists that we forever begin.


When I think about this idea of forever beginning, there are three big ideas that stand out to me.

1. Stay Curious

When you are in a new role or space, you can’t know everything so it is more acceptable to ask questions, but as we get more seasoned, sometimes we think that we have to have all the answers. It is hard to get away from the idea that the teacher, principal, or whoever is “in charge” should be the expert and have all the answers. This expectation of ourselves and others as “experts”  is not only unfair but prevents us from being open to what we don’t know or different possibilities.

I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious. Albert Einstein

It’s important to create an environment where others are inspired and supported to ask questions and look for problems to solve. Staying curious is not about becoming the expert, it is about developing the desire and capacity to move beyond where you have been.

2. Keep it Fresh

When things are new you can look at them with a fresh perspective and see new possibilities because you don’t have all the history and can see things differently. In his annual letter to stakeholders, Jeff Bezos shared his insight for keeping a fresh perspective to ensure Amazon (and other organizations) stay relevant, which is what he refers to as Day 1.

“The outside world can push you into Day 2 if you won’t or can’t embrace powerful trends quickly. If you fight them, you’re probably fighting the future. Embrace them and you have a tailwind.”

A lot of energy in schools is spent fighting the emerging trends in the world; whether it is a fidget spinner or cell phones with the goal of protecting students but we may actually be doing them a disservice. For example, we can embrace how our students are using social media and help build their digital leadership skills or we can fight it in our schools and leave it to chance that they develop skills that are fundamental for learning and citizenship (Check out Jennifer Casa- Todd’s Book, Social Leadia for more on this).  By embracing powerful trends like social media or whatever else comes our way, rather than have to try and stay ahead of the curve (which is likely impossible) we can stay current by allowing learners to teach us and embrace what is meaningful to them and for their learning.

A big part of this is also acknowledging that we don’t know it all and be willing to figure it out and continue to learn. As the world evolves there will be more than we have to embrace, not less. We can no longer stick our heels in the ground because this has been always been the way we have done it.

3. Link the Past the Future

Let’s be honest, nobody likes a person who always says, “this is how I/we have always done it” while at the same time a new beginning also doesn’t mean we have to throw out everything from the past.  It’s important to take lessons learned and a leverage a fresh perspective to inform how to move forward. I am excited to use my experience and what I have learned to help me build the bridge to new places, new opportunities, and exciting new possibilities. Continuing to reflect and share will help me to keep learning, even when they job isn’t new, and inform the journey to continually build new bridges, linking the past and the future.

A new beginning, whether it’s a new job, new school year or new project is always a good time to reflect and set new goals but more importantly I was thinking about the importance of staying in the mindset of forever beginning even when things aren’t new so you don’t become complacent and do things just the way you always have but seek to improve because you can.

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3 thoughts on “Forever Beginning

  1. That article by Holbrook really changed my thinking. As a teacher trained in Texas, I was very familiar with that poem and those questions. Embarrassingly enough, after moving to Illinois, I actually used that section of STAAR as part of a summative assessment on our poetry unit despite, like you, often feeling discouraged as a student while reading poetry. While my students always had an authentic assessment (writing their own poem using the poetic devices and elements we’d learned), I was sending mixed messages and often killing their confidence by giving them questions like that. One student even asked once: “How do I know what the author meant to say?” I had a less than perfect answer for him.

    I love your thinking about this poem, and you gave me a few things to think about: 1) Am I living these three points? And 2) Am I teaching in a way that encourages students to live these three points? Necessary questions to ask myself as I work on new courses this week. Thanks for writing and sharing!

    Like

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