a poem by Max Garland
Say there came a pandemic; some newsdrunk virus
set its hooks in us. And only the sky for a nurse,
arced and empty and barely even blue.
And only the musical pulse, and the several senses
for consolation, except for a stream of distant words
like waves bearing the rush, curl, and foam of elsewhere
arriving, the distant rhythm of others to bridge the gap
between head and heart, dark and day, fear and whatever
it is one feels on the brink of
when walking next to great waters, how the surf catches
and releases the light, and the waves and bones tremble
like the distant cousins of constant thunder.
We know salt tumbles eventually from ocean to body
and back, and forth. We know it takes ages to regather
the shaken self into the good world again.
I remember a ritual once where hundreds of tiny
boat-like baskets were lit and launched with prayers
and flowers and misfortunes, ignited and cast out
on the water until the bay was ablaze, a rocking
constellation of human woe uttered in small tongues
of flame, until little by little they drifted, burned,
blinked out, and then it was just dark water again,
and we all went home. Did our troubles never return?
Were we really less burdened, or better people?
What I mean is sometimes worry needs to be ignited,
launched into words, if only to blaze awhile among
flotillas of sorrows we thought were ours alone.
What I really mean, of course, is– Keep in touch.
Even if you don’t know what to say, especially
if you don’t know what to say. Kind words,
fellow castaways, mind-lit emergencies of fingertip
and tongue, float this festival of downtime and distance,
repopulate the dark with your fledgling human light.
Max Garland is the author of The Word We Used for It, winner of the 2017-18 Brittingham Prize. Previous books include The Postal Confessions. Originally from Kentucky, he is professor emeritus at UW-Eau Claire, a former Writer in Residence for the city of Eau Claire, and the former Poet Laureate of Wisconsin.
The COVID-19 pandemic has entirely altered the way that every one of us perceives life in just a few mere moments. Funny how tragedy can do that. However, in the wake of every disaster rise heroes in our communities, doing amazing things that remind all of the power of humanity to overcome even the most ominous obstacles. You may have not seen it if you don’t subscribe to the local paper (which I highly recommend), but people in Springfield and the surrounding communities are stepping up and staying strong. Our local State Journal Register veteran reporter, Steven Spearie has covered three such events.
The first story to surface was one in the SJR on the Springfield Families Helping Families Facebook page , established by our SPS Board of Education Vice President, Scott McFarland. Through this platform and the help of many selfless people like Jill Handy and Katharine Eastvold of Springfield and Erin Campbell of Chatham, hundreds of necessary food and health related items for families in need (because of the COVID-19 pandemic) have been provided. Additionally, they were able to establish micro-pantries , where people can donate or pick up what they need (one downtown at 422 S. 5th Street). You can join this group digitally at. There are 7,000 people already on board. What a success story!
The second positive story to surface was a spotlight on how our colleagues are reaching out to students and families in this new “remote learning” realm. The story took a close look at how our SEA professionals established creative online teaching across the board at Pre-K, third grade, middle school ELA, and high school AP, math and German. Our fellow professionals, Carrie Servough, Ben McKinney, Jill Friday, Rachel Johnson, and Eric Koepell (from ELC, Fairview, Washington Middle School, Southeast High and Springfield High) were positively showcased. In addition, parents with kids at Butler, Grant and Lincoln Magnet also commented positively on their teacher’s online prowess and support to their families. As icing on the cake, Springfield teachers were mentioned specifically by the State Superintendent, Dr. Carmen Ayala, in her last memorandum sent out last Friday .
The last positive piece was on our old SPS186 Webmaster of many years, Dave Heinzel, and his unique effort to keep people positive and spread a message of hope. He and the District parted ways back in 2014 . And, as they say, you can’t keep a good man down. Dave decided that what he might do is to create home made signs that attempted to capture the right message for the time we were all navigating and distribute them to those who might support it. “Everything will be ok,” is what it reads. You can see them all over the Historic West Side Neighborhood of town (Fayette, Lawrence, Macarthur, Washington and the surrounding side streets). What a concept… what a positive guy.
Unfortunately, we will all have some tough times ahead, as the confirmed cases multiply wildly. We know that there is a distinct possibility of losing some good people we know and love along the way. Hopefully through it all, we can figure out a way to stay supportive and stay strong and remember, as in the end of every tragedy, everything WILL be ok.
I have spoken with people working at insurance companies (State Farm, Farmer’s, Horace Mann), local bank/credit unions (IECU, US Bank, Marine) and State employees. It seems we all are working are tails off during this pandemic.
And, one of the things that we all have in common is kids. At the end of all this, we MUST re-examine why we test our students so much. It absolutely is not what is best for them or public education. REAL engaged learning (as we are all finding) is much more difficult to provide than standardized tests.
Approximately 50 percent of the world’s 7,784,456,081 humans are female. The Illinois Education Association, is composed of at least 72 percent women, 20 percent men and 8 percent non reporting. Seven out of our last ten SEA presidents have been women. And over 70 nations have had women lead their nations (Chandrika Kumartunga, Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Angela
Merkel to name a few). It is impossible to dispute that women have played every bit as vital of a role in history as men. However, as recently as the 1970s, women’s history was all but ignored in school, and virtually ignored in most K-12 public school curriculums.
Incited by this inequity, in 1978 , the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County (California) Commission on the Status of Women initiated a “Women’s History Week”. The local Women’s History Week activities met with tremendous response, and dozens of schools planned special programs for Women’s History Week. Over one-hundred community women participated by doing special presentations in classrooms throughout the country and an annual “Real Woman” Essay Contest drew hundreds of entries. The finale for the week was a celebratory parade and program held in the center of downtown Santa Rosa, California.
Amidst positive pressure from activists and congresswomen, President Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the Week of March 8th, 1980 as National Women’s History Week. And only a few years later, in 1987, March was declared as Women’s History Month into perpetuity.
This year’s national March celebration of women has been historic in its own right due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hopefully you have been able to find a way to help our students continue to conceptualize the power of women in our world, their profound impact on our society and the Wonder Woman in themselves. If by chance you have not, never fear… there seem to be plenty of days ahead to accomplish that mission.