In a letter called “Yesterday’s Highlights,” I periodically describe my observations of classes to the VanDamme Academy parents. I have decided to share these highlights with readers of this newsletter as well. I hope you enjoy your glimpse into a VanDamme Academy classroom.
This week and last, I have had the pleasure of teaching poetry to Rooms 1-5. This gave me an opportunity to get to know each of the students a little better, and to share with them something I love.
In each class, we studied a poem that connects to the novel the class had recently completed. If you want to learn more about your child’s education, help him study his poem, and ask him to explain how it relates to what he has been discussing in literature.
For example, Room 5 is memorizing the following gem of a poem, which I only recently discovered, and which immediately struck me as having an obvious connection to The Miracle Worker.
If you want a thing bad enough To go out and fight for it, Work day and night for it, Give up your time and your peace and your sleep for it
If only desire of it Makes you quite mad enough Never to tire of it, Makes you hold all other things tawdry and cheap for it
If life seems all empty and useless without it And all that you scheme and you dream is about it,
If gladly you’ll sweat for it, Fret for it, Plan for it, Lose all your terror of God or man for it,
If you’ll simply go after that thing that you want. With all your capacity, Strength and sagacity, Faith, hope and confidence, stern pertinacity,
If neither cold poverty, famished and gaunt, Nor sickness nor pain Of body or brain Can turn you away from the thing that you want,
If dogged and grim you besiege and beset it, You’ll get it!
The students were quick to identify and explain that this poem captured Annie Sullivan’s dogged, dauntless determination to teach language to Helen Keller. They noted that she “gave up her sleep for it,” immediately implementing ideas that struck her in the middle of the night; that she held Helen’s obedience and grooming as “tawdry and cheap” compared to her need to learn language; that she endured the bodily pain of being slapped, kicked, stuck with a pin, and having her tooth knocked out, and never gave up on her goal; and that she lost all terror of God, man, and Captain Keller for it. Now, they have seen this theme demonstrated in the inspirational character of Annie Sullivan, and they have heard it eloquently captured in the words of Berton Braley.
Poetry is incredible fuel for the soul. After your children have memorized the poems, they will have a claim to them, and will have them at the ready when a relevant time arises. Just today, a parent shared with me a charming story of her daughters reciting their poem “Courage” to her when she was afraid to jump from the Jacuzzi into the pool.
I will take inspiration from “Success.” This school is something I have had to “fret for” and “plan for,” something that has at times taken all my “strength and sagacity,” something I “schemed” and “dreamed” about. And my life would definitely be “empty and useless” without it. Thank you for helping all of us at VanDamme Academy achieve our “Success.” We, in turn, will help your children to do the same.
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