The road not taken: memorizing poetry

Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

– Robert Frost

Dear English teacher,

I’m thankful my teacher had me Memorize poems in middle school.

Memorize is a dirty word when used in the field of Education and I don’t think it is right. It is a skill. An important skill that should be developed along with other skills.

There is such value in pouring over smaller works of literature with great care. I think all English teachers realize this. I think the practicality of fitting it it into the demands of the curriculum are a uphill battle for most. It has in a way become “the road not taken”, whether because of a closed road sign put up by a curriculum or just the everyday practicality of implementing it into the classroom.

10 the road not taken

Not enough instruction time

The dreaded poetry unit conducted by most English teachers, many times through no fault of their own, flashes by in the bustle of the end of the year rush. With the curriculum demands put on them, poetry units end up at the end of the year. You can move more quickly poem to poem and pick up and keep things moving in a classroom with distracted kids.

I’m not judging. I’ve done it and watched others do it. Most teachers are surviving today with all the demands placed on them by the system and kudos to those who are able to rise above, but that is not the majority. Especially so if you are a new teacher and trying to get your legs steady and survive your first couple of years.

Memory lane

I will never forget my 7th English teacher, a nun with a stern look which usually was followed by a warm genuine hearty laugh. She was a phenomenal person who I remember fondly. She had us memorize and recite “Two Roads Diverged in A Yellow Wood” by Robert Frost – a classic. I love that poem. There are so many reasons I am thankful she had me memorize.  

The poem stays in your mind

In the physical sense it will stay in your memory when you are young. When you are young, your brain is a sponge. I remember things from middle school better than some things I learned in college (Or let’s face it – last week for that matter).

The poem stays in your heart

I loved this poem when I first heard it. As many do – its a classic. I didn’t understand it as well as I do now. Over the years, I would refer to it time and time again. I would always gain new insight to a line, or be able to apply it to an experience I was having. It was comforting to turn to in appropriate circumstances.

The confidence one builds in beyond invaluable

There is so much emphasis about self esteem. Working towards something challenging and then achieving it by your own merit is the ultimate self esteem booster.Memorizing a piece of work can do this for a student.

Informal learning is fun

Keeping it informal with the students would be my advice. Have it be a grade booster. It can relate to the curriculum you are currently working on, but be a side project. You could make it a “mandatory” extra credit to help boost their grades – aren’t they ALWAYS ASKING for extra credit.

Keep trying

I know how difficult it is and how many demands there are. I think the best advice I ever received was “close the door to your classroom and teach”. Its so difficult to tune out the noise and demands of everyone else. But it is ultimately your classroom, and you make the final curriculum decisions each day you walk in the room.

Be confident in yourself and have the students memorize poetry to gain confidence in themselves and fall in love literature, as you and I did.

To taking the road not taken,

Your sister

What now: keeping the faith in face of recent legislation

Dear Christian,

The recent legislation in our country is redefining its values. The dramatic and speedy shift of values is causing large amount of fear and doubt into our hearts. Many are afraid to speak their minds in opposition to what is trending, or are unsure of what or how to explain their beliefs when questioned by others.

A priest at my church sensed this as he was speaking with people this week. He addressed the recent actions of the supreme court in his homily. Specifically, the resulting fear and confusion that seems to be in the hearts and minds of those he has been in conversation with. His advice was comforting, uplifting, and practical – definitely worth sharing.

Francesca Faith Martin Letters from your sister

Tune out the news and tune into God

Turn off the news. The devices, the videos, the noise. Its good and necessary to stay informed, but allow yourself a break from it, especially if the information that is coming at you non stop is disturbing your heart. Regain your balance. Find quiet to still yourself and focus on the Lord and live your life the best you can. Ask for His guidance. Listen. Quiet your soul and allow Him to speak to you and not the phone updates.

Read your catechism.

It is one thing to listen to others, it is another to read for your own understanding and then teach others. Refer to the catecism. Buy a copy to keep in your home. Pray that the conversations you have with others are a reflection of God’s light in the world. That they reflect His love, compassion, mercy, understanding, and truth. We need to see Him more than ever.

Deepen the roots of our understanding

The world right now is pressuring us to adapt to its standards. In the world of confusion, go back the foundation of your own beliefs. Know who you are and what you believe. You can’t explain or change what is going on outside of you. You can maintain what is within you. Strengthen your roots. It will steady you and keep you from being carried away in the frenzy always stirring in the news feeds.

Pray for understanding. Trust in God. Pray for peace in our world, and ask for it to start within our own families. Ask Him to help you be a bold in the face of the uncertainty, and steadfast in a world of chaos and distractions.

Standing steadfast and in hope,

Your sister

Copyright © 2015 Francesca Faith Martin

Thank you Saint Anthony: for my lost and now found

“Saint Anthony, Saint Anthony, please come around: Something is lost and needs to be found!!”

– Prayer to St. Anthony of Padua

Dear sister,

Getting to know your saints

Get to know the saints that are sent to help you, Little Sister. One of these for me has been St. Anthony. I am constantly losing things. I don’t know what I would do without St. Anthony I wanted to take time to thank St. Anthony for all his help throughout the years. He has, and more significantly, helped me find my way in many situations.

Saint Anthony of Padua Letters from your sister

Lost

Starting out in my career, I was feeling low and uncertain with two years post college, a dozen interviews, and no permanent teaching position in sight. I was fortunate to get to know many of the students of one high school. St. Anthony used one student in particular to speak to me.

She was a student labeled with asperger’s, among other things. As she put, “I have a little bit of everything.” Cheerful girl. At times a handful to both her teachers and peers alike, but in the same token there was a fondness toward her relationship with everyone. Even those most irritated by her couldn’t help but smile.

One endearing and impish quality was that she would take things that were not hers and re-gift them to other people. One day she gave me a few colorful paper clips that I knew were from another teacher’s desk. She thought they were pretty, and told me so. She gave them to me saying she wanted me to have them as a gift from her. Endearing. Impish, but very sweet. That was this student.

A few days after receiving paper clips, I had been feeling uncertain. “Am I where I am suppose to be? Should I try a different profession?” I hadn’t been getting interviews at the time and felt stuck.

Found

My endearing little imp found me in the hallway to give me another present. I was expecting paper clips. To my surprise, it was a St. Anthony medal. She told me this is St. Anthony and she wanted me to have it. I thanked her. I was moved in awe and felt a great peace. I truly was where I was suppose to be – I know that for certain with hindsight now. I had received a gentle and beautiful reminder from St. Anthony.

My lost and now found items

This is one instance of many throughout my life where St. Anthony makes his presence known to me. He helps me find articles daily – phone, car keys, clothes, shoes, destinations and landmarks while driving, people, information, my glasses. He also finds me answers to questions.

Little things with great love

I speak simply to him as if we are personal friends and speak with him daily. I make sure to express my gratitude toward him every time he helps me. I know he hears me because he is so quick to help me. I am truly grateful for his love and intercession in the little trials of my life – and the bigger ones. He is one of my favorite saints and is worth reading about. (More about St. Anthony of Padua here and here).

Talk to St. Anthony, Little Sister. He loves to share God’s graces to him with you.

Lost and now found,

Your sister

Unfailing Prayer to Saint Anthony

Blessed be God in His Angels and in His Saints.

O Holy St. Anthony, gentlest of Saints, your love for God and Charity for His creatures made you worthy, when on earth, to possess miraculous powers. Miracles waited on your word, which you were ever ready to speak for those in trouble or anxiety. Encouraged by this thought, I implore of you to obtain for me (request). The answer to my prayer may require a miracle. Even so, you are the saint of Miracles.

O gentle and loving St. Anthony, whose heart was ever full of human sympathy, whisper my petition into the ears of the Sweet Infant Jesus, who loved to be folded in your arms, and the gratitude of my heart will ever be yours.

Amen. (Say 13 Our Fathers, Hail Marys, and Glorias)

found originally hereCopyright © 2015 Francesca Faith Martin

Light through darkness: climbing every mountain

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:5

Dear Little Sister,

I’ve seen so many people focus on their trials; myself included. We loose faith and forget to look at the whole picture. We become stuck in a vacuum and have trouble moving on. A fortune cookie’s saying from my Chinese food the other night was surprisingly profound. It  read:

You will always see light after darkness.

I take “light” to mean the good that will come of a situation, while I took “darkness” to mean a struggle or the challenge to get to the good. I will always see good after trouble. Fruit from adversity. I like this idea. The idea is at the heart of my faith.

Light through darkness Francesca Faith Martin

Darkness

The darkness represents the challenges – doubt, fear, uncertainty, weaknesses, impatience, seemingly impossible people and situations – that test us daily. It can be frustration at your job, anger with something out of your control, pain within your relationships. Things that are obstacles. We all have been, and ARE there in different ways. Its not what’s in our way, but how we respond to them.

Patience and hang in there

Trials that ask us to take the high road shape us and are always worth the pain. God tests us to bring us closer to Him. Diamonds begin as coal. They take time to evolve and then must be further cut for the ultimate brilliance to shine through. We are FAR from finished yet. The amount of courage we muster to patiently face the darkness, the greater the light and beauty will radiate from it in the end.

Face problems

Facing problems builds strength, propels life forward, and keeps us from becoming stagnant in our lives. Remember Maria von Trap learned from Mother Abbess at the end of The Sound of Music? “Walls are not meant to shut out problems. You have to face them. You have to live the life you were born to live. Climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every rainbow…” (oh please sing the rest!).

Our Lord’s example

Our Lord provided us with the perfect example of this. He faced all darkness. He worried in the garden with the greatest of anxiety; He faced His charges innocent and bravely; He allowed himself to be scourged, mocked, spit on, humiliated, whipped, beaten, nailed to a cross, and killed. He allowed His mother to watch. He allowed His followers to watch.

I recall someone telling me that one drop of His blood would have been enough to save the world. He was lavish and spared nothing. He gave everything. Gained nothing. A act of love that would unite us with Him while we are on earth – the Eucharist. An act to show His love for us.

Light

The light is love. It starts with the seeds of faith and hope. They bring strength, courage, persistence, and grace needed to preserve when we least believe we can. Its standing the high ground and taking in the view. It’s the path of Jesus. It’s His love and mercy. It is Jesus. It is His glory in the end.

Contrast is beautiful

Contrast is beautiful. The whole of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is proof of this. It’s the most breathtaking love story of all time. His story as the healer and miracle worker would be far less magnificent without His crucifixion.

Our little lives and our little stories are little crucifixions. We are created out of love, and are made as reflections of this ultimate story. The contrast keeps us attentive and pushes us out of mediocrity.

Happy endings to those who are open to grace

No one is given more than they can handle, or as I have recently seen pinned: God doesn’t give you more than you can handle WITHOUT HIM. It is unfair that some must handle more than others, but God gives them more grace to handle them. He carries them through, and makes our lives reflections of His beauty.

Face your challenge

Focus on staying in the game at all costs. Ask the Lord for eyes and ears and heart like His that will keep your mind and heart on His path. We have nothing and have everything to gain when we seek Jesus, the light of the world.

I never believe fortune cookies – until this one. YOU WILL SEE LIGHT AFTER DARKNESS

Yes. Yes I will. And so will you.

Here’s to the light and the faith that keeps us reaching toward it!

Yours in Christ,

Your sister