I have been in a position of privilege this week. Well, honestly, it is the same position I am in every week…in a chair or on my feet in front of students, teaching. But these last days overflow within me…absolutely overflow…and invite me to repeat what I have brought to God and proclaimed to those who are tolerant and patient enough to stand for a while in the breeze of my musing…
Number the Stars is over and spring vacations are about to begin. It is a poetry week again in 5th grade Literature. To keep the WWII theme going, students spent a while watching video clips of an eagle-cam and of newsreel footage of WWII Spitfire aircraft flying in formation. We then read and discussed WWII pilot/poet John Gillespie Magee’s poem High Flight and spoke at length about the images within the lines that moved the students and what it was about them that stirred their emotions.
After a bit of this, as well as a discussion about poetry being a response to experience, I threw my hands in the air and asked with rather unavoidable passion, “Who else among you has touched the face of God?!?”
Hands went in the air.
Hands went in the air!
And students spoke with care and depth and honest recognition about having touched the face of God…in waterfalls, in the birth of a sibling, in the quiet of a beach, being alone, the beauty of the sun, in a back yard, on an ice rink…
That students believe and KNOW bone deep down that they have touched the face of God…and could talk about it… well, that was an AUGH moment for me. To know and believe that at 11 years old…to walk with that. To have that confidence born of experience and nearness…it leaves me humbled and still with the quiet of God’s greatness.
It was a privilege just to hear them speak about it—to watch the experience play out anew on their faces and in their gestures.
Our next class began with a clip of the Saint Crispan’s Day speech from Kenneth Branagh’s version of Henry V. I admit to slipping into simultaneous translation mode for part of it to help them. Afterwards I invited the students to listen to a piece of music from the movie and to feel…what did they imagine might be happening in the movie based on the feel of the music? What was moved in them? What were the images that filled them?
From here, we went to the fields of France during WWI and read John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields while viewing images of poppy fields, doughboys, and cemeteries.
Then, one or two poems from children in the Terezin concentration camp from WWII.
The students then compared/contrasted the images of war/the feelings evoked in the different poems we read/heard.
Motivational, glory, warning, sad, different perspectives…
At week’s end I keep returning to a statement I made at the beginning:
God astounds me—and so do eleven year olds.