of the Teacher and a Poem of a Teacher
courtesy of Dr. Thom
Prentice, Assistant Professor, SWT (see note below)
following two pieces of text – The Prayer of the Teacher and a “poem
of a teacher” called What Have I To Give – were found by Elizabeth
Archer Prentice among the personal effects of her mother, Freda Grundish Archer,
a fifth grade teacher at the Shumaker (Public) School in Bellevue, Ohio
following Mrs. Archer’s death in October, 1960.
Mrs. Archer, grandmother of Southwest Texas State University Assistant
Professor of Education Dr. Thom Prentice, taught for nearly four decades and had
earned a Master's Degree in Education from Bowling Green State University in the
Dr. Prentice believes it is a good idea to keep formal, organized prayer and
religious worship out of schools, the two pieces of text -- one of which is a
prayer and both of which were clearly written or at least banged out on an old,
manual typewriter in 1940s or 1950s America -- nevertheless resonated with him
in the year 2000 when they were rediscovered by his mother, Elizabeth Archer
originals were well-folded with multiple fold marks and appear to be mimeograph
copies typed on a stencil using a manual typewriter since the impressions of the
individual letters vary so much. Anyone
who cuts out something from the newspaper or a magazine or prints it off of the
Internet in order to post it on the refrigerator or in a book or keep it in a
folder of personal effects can relate to both the process of saving prized
pieces of text as well as the process of rediscovering them,
are offered here for whatever resonance and inspiration they might offer to
teachers of Texas and America’s 21st Century.
THE PRAYER OF THE TEACHER
O, Lord of Learning and of Learners, we are at best but blunderers in
this godlike business of teaching. WE
have been content to be merchants of dead yesterdays--when we should have been
guides into unborn tomorrows. We
have put conformity to old customs above curiosity about new ideas.
We have been peddlers of petty accuracies, when we should have been
priests and prophets of abundant living. We
have thought more about our subject than our object.
WE have schooled our children to be clever competitors in the world as it
is, when we should have been helping them to become creative cooperators in the
making of the world as it ought to be.
We have counted knowledge more precious than wisdom.
WE have tried to teach our children what to think instead of how to
think. We have thought it our
business to furnish the minds of our children, when we should have been laboring
to free their minds.
It has been easier to tell our children about the motionless past that we
can learn once for all, than to join with them in trying to understand the
living present that must be studied afresh each morning.
From these sins of sloth may we be freed.
May we realize that it is important to know the past only that we may
live wisely in the present. Help us
to be more interested in stimulating the builders of modern cathedrals than
retailing to them the glories of ancient temples.
Give us to see that a child's memory should be a tool as well as a
treasure chest. Help us to realize,
in the deepest sense, that we cannot teach anybody anything; that the best we
can do is to help them to learn for themselves.
Help us to see that all facts are dead until they are related to the rest
of knowledge and the rest of life. May
we know how to relate "the coal scuttle to the universe."
Help us to see that education is, after all, but the adventure of trying
to make ourselves at home in the modern world.
May we be shepherds of the spirit as well as masters of the mind.
Give us, O Lord of Learners, a sense of the divinity of our undertaking.
ADAPTED from a Prayer by Glenn Frank by the Very Rev. Paul Roberts, Rector, St.
John's Cathedral, Denver)
WHAT HAVE I TO GIVE?
come and mingle in my class--38 of them--
poor, the well, the over-fed, the dirty,
crude, the frightened, the well-mannered, the belligerent.
dined on balanced menus last night, others
hungry stomachs with tainted left-overs;
others drank strawberry pop for dinner--a
of tasty luxury which fleetingly nourishes
soul, but not the body.
little boy who sharpens his pencil too
and talks too much is remembering the
popcorn balls his mother used to
she now lives far away, and there
much unhappiness for a little boy learning
live without a mother who did gentle, personal things for him.
little girl who talks too loudly is making
to cover the gnawing of an empty stomach--
an empty soul. She has never
had anyone to
gentle, personal things for her.
unruly boy in the back row has never felt
warmth and security of love; he resists all
at stern discipline, but softens at a
word or the ruffling of his funny crew cut.
boy with the grimy clothes and body has
understood why stronger people pick
weaker ones; he is the target of his father's
strength--and he strikes blindly at all
us in a rage he dares not show at home.
young, squirming, individuals--
and unhappy--not a class to be lumped together.
look to me for knowledge. And what
to give? Yet I was once like them.
fear, felt shame at little things, cringed
pangs of mediocrity, searched eyes for friendliness.
me, before I speak, remember that and recall,
the lash of a teacher's tongue when I was
the seventh grade and couldn't understand a
all, let me soften the sharpness of my
tongue that no young personality will carry
my classroom the scar of humiliation.