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Happy Holidays from Branching Minds, and Poetry to Welcome 2021
WHOA. 2020, has been some kind of year… A year of unprecedented times -- COVID, extreme weather, a divisive election, soaring unemployment...so much hardship and so much loss. This year has pressure tested our systems, all of them.
And yet, this year has also helped us clarify our priorities, build resilience, and create balance. As families and friends distanced from each other, the importance of those relationships crystallized; as members and businesses within our communities struggled, folks pitched in, shopped local, ordered more food from restaurants that needed support to keep the lights on, checked in on neighbors (from a distance), donated food, money, rides and more; as schools closed and then adapted through permutations of distance/hybrid/onsite learning, families understood anew the critical role schools play; as so many parents had to step in as “co-teachers,” the respect and appreciation for educators sky rocketed; and as the pandemic further widened the achievement gap of our more vulnerable learners (“COVID slide”), school districts across the country reinvigorated conversations of equity and turned talk into action - accelerating plans to address those inequities for 2021.
It’s been a hard year, and we are all tired. BUT, there is also so much reason to be brimming with hope.
When I finished my masters in education almost 15 years ago, my professor gave me the book, “Teaching with Fire: Poetry that Sustains the Courage to Teach.” Even then, well before 2020, teaching was a calling that required courage, grit and buckets of heart. There were three poems that hit me hard in the gut the first time I read them -- in the best possible way -- and do every year when I need to reflect and reset. This year they feel even more poignant. So I will leave you with some poetry alongside my sincere wish for your health and well-being in 2021: may we snatch up all the diamonds of 2020 and leave the bags of coal behind.
2021 is going to be a year of significant growth, so let’s get ready to do some serious growing!
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!
Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on. Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers. Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting - over and over announcing your place in the family of things.
Sweet Darkness by David Whyte
When your eyes are tired the world is tired also.
When your vision has gone no part of the world can find you.
Time to go into the dark where the night has eyes to recognize its own.
There you can be sure you are not beyond love.
The dark will be your womb tonight.
The night will give you a horizon further than you can see.
You must learn one thing. The world was made to be free in
Give up all the other worlds except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn
anything or anyone that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
I am Running into a New Year by Lucille Clifton
i am running into a new year and the old years blow back like a wind that i catch in my hair like strong fingers like all my old promises and it will be hard to let go of what i said to myself about myself when i was sixteen and twenty-six and thirty-six even thirty-six but i am running into a new year and i beg what i love and i leave to forgive me
Maya is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Branching Minds, where she focuses on building partnerships with districts and product design. She has spent 17 years working with children, youth, and adults as an educator in various capacities both inside and outside of the school system. She has previously taught young children ages 2-3, and students in grades 2-4 in New York City. Maya has also taught English and Mathematics internationally to children, teenagers, and adults in Istanbul, Turkey, and has written math curriculum in Jerusalem, Israel. She led youth advocacy groups in Pennsylvania and directed after-school programs in California, Florida, and New York. She has also tutored students with a broad range of learning needs, from kindergarteners to college students. Ms. Gat received her M.S. in Childhood and Early Childhood Education from Sarah Lawrence College. She also holds a B.A. in Urban Studies and Fine Arts from the University of Pennsylvania.
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