I taught one of my favorite lessons today, and was reminded of how exciting it is to take children to the next level. The lesson was part vocabulary, part poetry, part metaphor, part Black History Month, part "this is your teacher telling you she wants you to keep trying".
We read this poem together. I choked up on the first read, as I always do. Hughes does that to me. We then read it in parts, we role-played, we talked about message and meaning, and the poet's use of the vernacular.
No, I don't teach high school English. I teach 4th grade English Language Learners.
"Did you like this poem?" I asked as the bell rang for lunch.
"Oh YES Miss! That's how my mom talks to me!"
"Now THAT's some good advice he gave in the poem."
"I LOVE how you read that Miss!"
"Can I keep the paper Miss? Can I memorize it?"
"Let's do another one tomorrow Miss!"
Mother to Son, by Langston Hughes (1902 - 1967)
Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor --
But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now --
For I'se still goin', honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.