Cultivating Passion

Recently, a new writing project took shape; as of Friday I have a tentative title, framework, and many burgeoning ideas for a new book! In fact, even when I’m not sitting at my computer writing, I can’t stop thinking about it.

I know I’m fortunate to have found something I’m passionate about doing. After all, passion motivates, provides purpose, and inspires tenacity.

How might we discover and cultivate the passions of our students? How might this time of distance learning provide an opportunity for students to read, write, and explore a passion of their choosing?

In Oprah’s words: “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.”

Cultivate passion. The time is now.

Unexpected Gifts

My emotions have been heightened as of late. From what I hear, I’m not alone. During these days of COVID-19, we hear stories of incredible kindness and incredible sorrow. These dichotomies co-exist in our world. Always, of course, but they seem even more apparent now.

Last night, a concert aired entitled One World: Together at Home. Lady Gaga virtually united celebrities from across the world to show support for the frontline workers and the World Health Organization during this pandemic. It served as a poignant reminder that we’re all in this together highlighting both the heartbreak and the humanity around the world.

Selflessness and bravery are revealed in times of need. Faith and hope in times of exhaustion and despair. Innovation in times of desperation. Compassion in response to suffering. Deepened connections in times of isolation and unexpected gifts in times of trials.

Amid the challenges you’ve faced, what gifts have you discovered over the last few months? Please share!

Inspired

Last week, at 8:30 each morning, I tuned into Facebook Live to watch Jacqueline Woodson read from one of my forever-favourite books: Brown Girl Dreaming.

Not only did I savour the time listening to this author read the words of her own book aloud, I reveled in the in-between moments: her spontaneous commentary about books and reading, words and writing, life and love, snow and sun, family, and of course dogs (as they appeared and disappeared unpredictably during her readings).

On Friday she spoke about slow reading. About enjoying the white space between the words. About rereading books. About not rushing our students. About enjoying picture books at all ages, adults included.

Listening to her words – both written and spoken – I feel inspired. Inspired to reread her precious, provocative words. Inspired to read slowly. Inspired to write and tell my story. Inspired to teach and and empower our students. Inspired to be a better person, too.

Her readings last week occurred because of COVID-19. I wouldn’t have experienced this daily inspiration if not for the pandemic, not in this way at least.

So consider this: how can we take this unusual time and turn it into an opportunity? How can we use books to both comfort and challenge our students? How can we inspire our students to read more slowly and savour the words on a page? How can we inspire them to “be kind and love each other up” (in Jacqueline Woodson’s words)?

However you do it, this week, strive to inspire.

Let it Be

During these troubling times, it is essential to find ways to cope, ways to escape, ways to manage anxiety. One of my strategies is music.

Have you noticed that words you’ve heard time and time again have taken on new meaning during this new reality?

John Lennon and Paul McCartney certainly weren’t thinking of COVID-19 when they wrote Let it Be. Yet when I listened to it the other day, I couldn’t help but consider these poetic words in the context of the current situation.

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
Let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

And when the broken hearted people
Living in the world agree,
There will be an answer, let it be.
For though they may be parted there is
Still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be. Yeah
There will be an answer, let it be.

And when the night is cloudy,
There is still a light that shines on me,
Shine on until tomorrow, let it be.
I wake up to the sound of music
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
Let it be, let it be.
There will be an answer, let it be.
Let it be, let it be,
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

What lyrics or songs resonate with you? What about with your students? During this national month of poetry, invite your students write another verse to one of their favourite songs.

Charles Darwin once said, “If I had my life to live over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week.”

We can’t control our situation; we can control how we respond to the situation. Poetry and music each week… let it be.