Picking Clean the Bones by Sally Atkins

Tell me, she said:

What is the story you are telling?
What wild song is singing itself through you?

In the silence between there is music:
In the spaces between there is a story.

It is the song you are living now.
It is the story of the place where you are.
It contains the shapes of these old mountains,
The green of the rhododendron leaves.

It is happening right now in your breath,
In your heart beat still
Drumming the deeper rhythm
Beneath the cracking words.

It matters what you did this monring
And last night
And last year,

Not because you are important
But because you are in it
And it is still moving,
We are all in this story together.

In the silence between there is music:
In the spaces between there is a story.

The author of this poem was my teacher and I her student. I had been teaching for over 25 years, and I had begun to ask the question, “Am I serving my students well? This is a question many teachers grapple with and here the words, “we are listening each other into being,” soared from the page and into my heart. It became clear to me that my role as a teacher is not so much in talking and sharing knowledge, but by being present with my students in the space of silence so I can listen and know them through their personal stories. There is an honoring that takes place in the stillness of listening, a reverential stance that states, I hear you, I see you, and you are important. “In the silence between there is music; In the spaces between there is a story. I am reminded of a place of beauty that lives within the silence, within the story if only I first, Listen. This practice has served me well over the years. Recently a student sent me this note, “I am thankful for your care, responsiveness, and flexibility as a teacher.” If I pay attention, I can listen my students into being. There is no greater gift.

How are you listening your students into being?



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