Be the teacher you needed

Job Description
  - for the apprentices

Be nourishing as damp spring soil,
tenacious, faithful as seed buried there.
Be quick, clear as water in a freshet,
determined to go the distance to the sea.
Be solid, dependable as river rock,
smooth and malleable to stream flow.
Have a preference for order &
the ability to laugh during chaos.
Whisper to the bully,
"I don't want to crush your spirit,"
to the shy, self-conscious one,
"I love your socks."
In a world of straight rows
facing the chalkboard, intercom, flag,
Make a circle, listen, sit near the light.
Magician, custodian, queen and scholar,
Remember when you learned to speak Portuguese,
remember the play — no part for you —
Remember the loneliness of the beginner's path,
and be a beginner again —
and again — because you are, will be,
with each new circle, in very lighted space.
Be the ladder, be the lighthouse,
be the lightning bug.
Be the open heart, an idea unspooling.
Be the teacher you needed
that winter your grandfather died,
and the next year when you walked-on to Varsity.
Know yourself as essential,
your students, most important.
You will give and give and give.
No one will witness
your six hundred close judgment calls a day,
but your students will remember
notes in your handwriting
written in the margins of their young lives.

- Ann Staley

A poet based in Corvallis, Oregon, Ann Staley has been a teacher for over 40 years. She has taught grade-schoolers to grandmothers, and has worked in five Oregon school districts, two community colleges, two public universities, and two private colleges. Her first poetry collection, Primary Sources, was published in August 2011.