I tell myself until I believe it
The faces in front of me come to school for a reason
And it aint just cuz their mom gets hit with a ticket
If they decide to stay home cuz they just want to kick it.
No, they want, like we all do, what this world’s got to offer
And hope that school and its rules can make life’s blows a bit softer.
And maybe, just maybe today they’ll learn something new,
Something that fits like a year old shoe,
Or catch the scintillating scent of someone who
Can play a move so smooth that it can fool a fool
Into thinking or dreaming or contemplating
The possibility that hostilities and hating
Are NOT what must make a man, a woman, a nation or a state
Of mind that pushes love aside to make room for hate.
We say the mighty pen can vanquish the sword
But what do we say of the gallons of blood that are poured
Down our gutters each day because this one sees it this way
And that one sees it his way and aint no way that our way
Could ever be your way. They say we say you say I say
ENOUGH today! Because your way IS our way and we all gotta play
Or take our balls and go home. Some wise words in this poem, hey?
So what to do to give kids and teachers a break?
How do we make school a place that will hum,
Maybe just take a break and heal the broken sys-tum?
Maybe we make our instructional minutes count double
To pull our education out of its present trouble.
Let’s begin by giving me twenty
Students to teach instead of forty-three
Maybe then I’ll want them all to write for me
Because I’ll be able to read their papers and still leave at five-thirty.
Give me one kid, a good book, and some paper
And I can pull off the impossible caper
Of taking a teen who NEVER has read
And lift up his hopes like I’m raising the dead.
But tie my hands to a classroom that holds forty-three
And the ones who are blind don’t let anyone see.
Mom? Yeah, Mother always finds her way into my words,
Been dead for over a year but still she wants to be heard.
It is she, yes it’s she who set my soul on fire,
Who keeps setting love’s bar not lower but higher,
Who keeps me alive, and, oh yeah, another
Small matter we can say of everyone’s mother
That keeps all of us mindful of mama’s true worth
Is that she said “Yes,” when it came to our birth.
So Mom always said to me, like yours probably did, too,
“Son, I’m not expecting nothing from you.
No, not nothing, but something, something grand,
And I’m not talking about money or acres of land
Or barrels of oil, or diamonds, or gold,
Because none of that matters, unless you can hold
Your heart in your hands, and give it, for free
And set out to be all that GOD means you to be!
Stand tall and let all know you by your word—
Think what it says and make certain it’s heard.”
So like Mama says, and I’m shouting it out:
Let school be the place where we stamp out self-doubt.
Where reason is the season and treason against humanity
That is willfully perpetrated by the greed and vanity
Of the few who believe their due
Should be more than they allow me or you
Will wither and fade,
And the only grade
This teacher will have to give
Is the A to the fighters who say “Live and let live,”
And who come to school not because they have to
Because it’s the law but because they have to
Because, because, because . . . and they’ll swear this is true
Because really there’s nothing out there better. To DO.
That was the bell, but wait! There's one more thing I must say.
Don’t take your ball home. Come out. And play.