Today, Tuesday 5 May is Teacher appreciation day and I thought it a good day to reflect on part of my journey as a teacher and to also share a poem that I felt was relevant for Mental health month.
In August 2019, I started a group for teachers in Harare, Zimbabwe called, Thrive for Educators and our catchphrase is, ” I teach, I thrive.” We are a mixed group from early childhood teachers to grade 12 teachers as well as some school administrators. Our goal is to build resilience as educators by each sharing our stories, hopes and frustrations. This story sharing has built a sense of community that has enabled us to feel seen, heard and understood. We no longer feel alone or isolated but understand a lot of what we feel is also felt by others. All teachers will agree that teaching is challenging and even more so with this virus crisis. It is quite easy to find ourselves becoming less bendy, less elastic and less buoyant when it comes to recovering from setbacks and new challenges.
I have finally learned that there is not shame in acknowledging that I am not coping and through our monthly Thrive for Educator meetings we are building a community who can feel safe to share when they are not coping. We are realising that it is important to be honest and also sensitive enough to observe when our colleagues are not coping. We all have different burdens to bear and there is beauty is bearing with each other.
The poem below was written as part of a challenge to write a poem with the title, “Collage” and to include a line from a published poet in the creation. The line, *”not waving, but drowning” comes from Stevie, Smith’s poem with the same title. This line has played over in my mind during this time of crisis and I think as May is mental wellness month, it is great opportunity to discuss these things more openly. “Not Waving but Drowning” was published in 1957 as part of a collection of the same title. The most famous of Smith’s poems, it gives an account of a drowned man whose distressed thrashing in the water had been mistaken for waving” (Wikipedia)
Our lives are a collage of collected stories –
Here – look- yours touches mine.
Not waving but drowning * –
Be kind …
Tread slowly and softly,
Lest you mis-
miss the cry of one human heart to be
connected to another.
We are an assemblage of the divine.