You Do Not Have To Be Good #sol16


The eastern morning sky kissed goodbye to nighttime sky as I climbed out of my car, scrambling with my totes and slamming the car door with my foot.  As I glanced eastward, ribbons of orange, velvety apricot and gold caught my attention and I was captured for a moment, lost in this small gift of the morning sunrise. . . and then I heard them.

The Wild Geese.

High above, I listened to their calls to me.  I’ve heard that music before.  I knew what they were messaging.  Mary Oliver’s poem came to me in full verse.

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees 

for a hundred miles through the desert repenting . . .

Yes, yes, I know.  Always, the wild geese.  They remind me of this.  I should quit hauling all this stuff home on the weekend, thinking I am going to dig into it.  I carry this bag back and forth from my classroom, to my car, to the house, back to my car and into the classroom again.  The contents remain in the bag, while I wear a cloak of guilt that says I’m not doing enough.  Thank you, Mary Oliver for teaching me that who I am, what I am, and what I do is good enough.  It’s ok. Thank you.

Poetry is such a part of who I am.  I’ve memorized a few poems.  Wild Geese.  Stopping By The Woods On a Snowy Evening. These poems bring me calm and peace, like a prayer, when I call on them to rest upon.

I have plenty of poetry mentors:  Mary Oliver, Georgia Heard, Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge, and Ralph Fletcher.  But, my online secret social media poetry mentor is Amy Ludwig Vanderwater.  She is the author of several fabulous poetry books, however, it’s her online home at Poetry Farm that keeps me alive when I need a poetry feeding.

She leads me to poems of any topic or technique.  If you are looking for poems about art, she’s got some.  Need a poem about spring mornings?  You’ll find one of those, too. Once you discover this secret hiding spot of poems, you will visit here a gazillion times.  If you peek along the left side, you will discover resources galore.  I so love it when writers/poets/artists share their ideas for free.  It’s such a gift.  Especially to us teachers.

Amy also teases me into sneaking over to her other playground – sharing her writers notebooks.  Heavens.  Seriously.  I can’t even. If you are not using a writers notebook, you will be when you are done visiting here.  Stuck for notebook ideas?  Go here now.  Never again should you say, I’ve nothing to write about.

And, if you write poetry or would like to try your hand at it, you need to swing over to Poetry Friday, which sometimes  Amy hosts.

Hopefully, you don’t save poetry for one month in April and instead, you sprinkle it in your classroom all year long.  Regardless, one way or another, you are missing out on some glorious poetry treasures if you have never stopped in at Amy’s home.

Shari 🙂

I’m participating in twowritingteachers March Challenge of posting a blog post every day for the month of March.  While I’ve missed a few days, I’m still in it for the long haul!  To check out other writers, visit here.




15 thoughts on “You Do Not Have To Be Good #sol16

  1. I really love this poem–I remember hearing it for the first time when I was going through a crisis that arose from, among other things, me making a very bad choice. I was beating myself up because I have been the Good Girl for, like, ever. It released immediately a huge sense of guilt and I felt more relieved and free than I had in months. I’m so glad you brought it to my attention again.


  2. Mentors – where would we be without them – and how easily we forget their existence in the midst of the day to day. Your post reminds me to go check out a few of my own online mentors – and I’ll check yours out too. I love Mary Oliver. I wrote a poem about being her dog: i-am-dog-she-is-poet


  3. Beautiful description of the sunrise, Shari. Many of your poet mentors are mine as well. I do enjoy reading your posts. Thank you.


  4. I ;enjoyed the way you found affirmation in Oliver’s poem…reminding yourself that it’s okay to leave the stacks of ungraded papers IN your bag over the weekend (or better yet, ON your desk at school). Next time I lug home a Vera Bradley loaded with work, work, and more work, I’m going to remember your slice and the wild geese and poetry; and I’m not going to feel guilty (well…not very guilty anyway). 🙂 Wonderful slice!!!


  5. Oh Wild Geese and Mary Oliver truly are inspiring! I love how you bring it in to your slice and use it so effectively in your “I’m not doing enough” guilt. Thanks for the great ideas and resources, too.


  6. Thank you for reminding me how much I love Mary Oliver and for the reminder of Amy’s work, too. There are so many ways this SOL challenge is helping me to refocus on the things I love–sometimes the pressures of day-to-day work cloud my vision. Thanks for the clarifying post!


  7. “Like a prayer.” This is exactly how I feel about the poems I read and love and let burrow into me. Thank you, Shari, for your ever-kind words. It meant a lot to me to find them this evening… If you would ever be interested in sharing at Sharing Our Notebooks…I would love to have you! xo


  8. Ahhhh! I love this post. Your description of the sky was gorgeous! When you were listing your poetry mentors I thought, “Oh, she has missed Amy LV,” but you had not. Her sites are great and my third graders love her. The poem you shared was new to me, but I get it- I joined the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek in the hopes of reducing my guilt and weekend work.


  9. Wow, this post is a treasure trove of information about poetry resources! Although I am not in the classroom any more, I am inspired to do more with poetry in the library with my kiddos after reading this! Thank you.


  10. Amy’s site is a found treasure. And she’s a joy to meet in person also. Love that you shared the small gift of the morning sunrise. And Mary Oliver’s poem. I say leave that stuff at school (even though I never could). I used to say that I wore out papers carrying them back and forth.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s