…reflecting on connections, fears & the purpose of education by Stacey James McAdoo…
🎵Just like I told you,
You must learn.🎵
-KRS1, Boogie Down Productions
Even before the days of Covid, pivots, and hybrid classrooms, educators have always understood that learning isn’t, never has been, and never will be confined to the walls of a classroom.
The other day I had a conversation with someone about fear. My mind instantly started making literary connections associated with the word. First, it was scripture (“For God did not give us the spirit of fear…”), and then it went to one of my favorite poems by Nikki Giovanni called “Allowables,” before veering off to “Mercy,” where it landed on Rudy (Fransisco).
Learning is about connections and applying what we’ve learned to improve ourselves and the world around us. How awesome would it be to live in a world full of mercy and grace where we didn’t do things to others just because we can and have the power to do so…or smash other’s hopes and dreams because they don’t fit with ours…or if we wanna keep it real, actually kill because of racism, hatred, ego-tripping or fear?
As a classroom practitioner and sponsor of the spoken word collective, The Writeous Poets, I believe in teaching through the arts. I cannot begin to count the number of philosophical debates I’ve been a part of related to education, its purpose, and what the most important tenets are. Because my experiences and interactions with others shape my worldview and teaching perspective, my teaching style is very relationship-oriented and rooted in enriched assessment. For me, critical thinking, reflective practice, and character education always trump manufactured pacing guides, and I try to make a concerted effort to teach living poets to cover my curriculum, provide relevant examples, and to teach life lessons.
Listed below are two short pieces by two phenomenal living poets I love and admire more than I could ever express. May we one day learn to reflect on our actions as much as Nikki does and learn to extend mercy to others, as expressed by Rudy.
By Nikki Giovanni
I killed a spider
Not a murderous brown recluse
Nor even a black widow
And if the truth were told this
Was only a small
Sort of papery spider
Who should have run
When I picked up the book
But she didn’t
And she scared me
And I smashed her
I don’t think
To kill something
Because I am
By Rudy Fransisco
She asked me to kill the spider
Instead, I got the most
peaceful weapons I can find
I take a cup and a napkin.
I catch the spider, put it outside
and allow it to walk away
If I am ever caught in the wrong place
at the wrong place, just being alive
and not bothering anyone,
I hope I am greeted
with the same kind
(These poems paired together or used separately are excellent tools to facilitate discussions about power, bullying, oppression, violence, Black Lives Matter, being an ally, compassion, mercy, and justice.)
*Stacey James McAdoo, the 2019 Arkansas Teacher of the Year (affectionately referred to as 2019ATOY), is the sponsor of the spoken word collective called Writeous Poets from Little Rock, Arkansas. For seventeen years she served as an Oral Communications instructor and AVID Coordinator at the historic Little Rock Central High School. She currently teaches future teachers in the Excel program and is the lead Secondary Novice Teacher Mentor for the Little Rock School District where she continues to be the living embodiment of her ATOY platform of using passion and poetry to close the opportunity gap.*