On the Magic Carpet

A simple Sunday night tweet from a PDS English teacher is enough to fire up the engine on the magic carpet of the mind. “The Waking” is apparently one of Theodore Roethke’s best known poems but it was new to me. Read it below and let it take you on a journey into consciousness.

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.
We think by feeling. What is there to know?
The half awake state, the musings on the role of fate, the knowledge that we learn from the experience of living and from what we feel – surely we have all been there.

“I learn by going where I have to go”

All those best laid plans for whatever it is schools set out to do – at best they are a snapshot in time of current thinking. The work of creating them has tremendous value. They can be crucial as a tool for shaping shared vision. But rarely do they – in retrospect at least – provide a useful and workable roadmap of simple manageable steps.

And surely the same applies to curriculum development which must these days be more about the compelling and important questions rather than as a means to provide answers that are neither. Rather than something divided into measurable and testable nuggets of information to be delivered it is more a fluid and open-ended inquiry of relevance, authenticity, interest and deep humanity.

With access to the googleable universe of knowledge that all digitally connected learners can have at their fingertips the content of the curriculum shifts.

High school students in Brent’s science classes this week provide just one example.

16627849614_d3b34971ab_oFunctioning as citizen scientists they have been monitoring the eels in the Fallkill Creek as it approaches the Hudson River in Poughkeepsie. These students are not being taught science they are thinking, learning and working as scientists.

It was a cold day – even with a few snowflakes in the air – and these kids were hip deep in water. But no matter. These students were engaged in active work and in something bigger than themselves. Work of authenticity, value and relevance.

What better way to inspire a passion for science and an understanding of our natural environment? And all that important book learning?  Well now it’s active and now that it has context and  purpose – it will last. That knowledge is now just-in-time and can be put to work.

Examples like this one abound in every division at PDS. This just happened to be a notable one from this week.

Our goal is to become a self-evolving organization of self-evolving learners.


That’s from our strategy plan.

It is not about a destination that you will know when you arrive. It is not a set of steps to achieve a pre-determined outcome. It is rather a statement about the journey.

And the journey comprises the choices we make guided by the outcomes we hope for our students.

They include:

  • a passion for learning;
  • an ethical purpose in a life;
  • and the experience of the practical and intellectual skills of what it means to think and work as  scientists, artists, historians, mathematicians, poets, makers and as far as possible across the realm of human endeavor

We learn by going where we have to go.

And so back to that tweet.

The poem that immediately came to my mind was Antonio Machado’s Traveller, There Is No Path

Traveller, your footprints
Are the path and nothing more;
Traveller, there is no path,
The path is made by walking.

By walking the path is made
And when you look back
You’ll see a road
Never to be trodden again.

Traveller, there is no path,
Only trails across the sea…

Something to keep in mind when we are busy making plans and creating curriculum and determining directions and making decisions.

The Waking

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.
We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground!   I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.
Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.
This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.
 – Theodore Roethke

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