Tuesday, October 02, 2007

PTSW: Statistics 101

One of my favorite poets is also a dear friend.

I first knew Mildred Greear as a fellow teacher in the very early seventies when she and Phillip led an outdoor classroom training session way out the Texas Valley road near where it intersects with Huffacre Road near Rome, Georgia. What a wonderful day that was.

Later Sheila and I became involved in her campaign for the Georgia Senate. Our primary involvement was the design of a campaign brochure, but we also did door-to-door canvassing, phonebank calling, and other nuts-and-bolts politics. She led several candidates in the initial primary, but lost in a run-off.

After the election we accompanied Mildred and Phillip and several others of Mildred's campaign troops on an overnight canoe trip/ culminating group hug down the Etowah River. It was great fun. Mildred had resigned her teaching position and I was one of those chosen to take her place in the gifted program of Floyd County Schools. Mildred soon rejoined us and so I taught with her a while in that program.

Then came the Reagan Years and the resulting attempted rape of the environment. Once again we joined the Greears in a campaign. This time it was a grassroots effort to stop the Reagan sell-off of the National Forests. I don't know who came up with the odd acronym, INFO. It stood for "Individuals for National Forest Outcry". But however awkward the title it was a wonderfully heterogenous group of folks who succeeded in organizing some huge rallys against Reagan's attempt to sell off our national forests. And it worked. The sale was stopped.

When we added Brannon and Lillian to the mix, Mildred and Phillip adopted them as grandchildren. (I apologise to Mildred for the accusing look she received from baby Lillian who had fallen from the couch and seemed to believe Mildred was somehow responsible!) B & L loved to swim in the Greear's little pool, gather eggs from the hen house, or pick tomatoes from the garden. As Phillip lost his vision to macular degeneration, Lillian knew to approach him from the side so he could see her with his remaining peripheral vision.

Mildred hosted us with some other friends at their rustic cabin in Helen, where I could walk through the leaves and needles, alone, coffee in hand up the misty little hollow and touch the trillium and listen to the birds. We came back with other friends. Climbed Trey Mountain. Hiked a section of the AT.

They helped me as I chaired a Nature Conservancy committee to build the Braille Trail at Marshall Forest.

When Daddy died, they turned their basement wood-working shop over to me so that Brannon and I could do an important job.

We have been together to celebrate births and marriages, and to grieve at funerals.

When Mildred was ready to publish her first chapbook of poems, A Species of Ruin, Sheila and I set it for her. (We will pretend it was the great graphic design that won it first place in the Georgia Poetry Society chapbook competition.)

They moved to Helen years ago. We see them too rarely. But on one visit a decade ago Mildred told me about her Apple Lesson. That lesson (ala Terrell's mode, of course) has become my opening and closing lesson of each school year and the basis for my class motto.

Fall Line Arts Press has just published a major collection of Mildred's poems, Moving Gone Dancing. On page 27 of that 210 page volume you will find this little poem. Our mutual friend Mike Burton is a national leader in deaf education, and one of the most fluent signers among hearing users of American Sign Language. Mildred wrote this poem after watching Mike interpret a college class.

Statistics 101

Monotonous as multiplication
the professor's voice droned
reasons for squaring sums
to measure standard deviations.

Below the lecture-room dais,
the interpreter's hands
danced the terms on air;
numbers made arabesques,
pliƩd, found, touched,
balanced on new partners;
re-grouped, fluttered
in a pas de deux
tout le corps!

Momentarily I longed to be deaf
to live so intimately with birds.

by Mildred White Greear
From Moving Gone Dancing
Copyright 2007
All rights reserved
Used by permission


The series of posts, A Poem to Start the Week, is my little anthology of poetry, many of which I have used with my students in elementary schools during 27 years of teaching.

Previous Poems to Start the Week:
Statistics 101 • The Spider and the Fly
Back to School
The Inchcape RockOgden NashTrash
Hearts, Like DoorsCasey at the BatAlways a RoseHome at Last
Bag of ToolsCarpe DiemPoems About PoetryMan's Best Friend
Spelling is Tough Stough!
Blue MarbleTacks, Splinters, Apples and Stars
Oh, Captain, My Captain!MetaphorIntroducion to Poetry
Loveliest of TreesFlax-Golden TalesThe Dinosaurs Are Not All Dead
Owl PelletsMummy Slept LateJust My Size
The Kindest Things I KnowMiles to GoLove that Brother
Oh, Frabjous Day!

Other Posts about Children's Literature:

The Lion's Paw top kid's OOP book!
Aslan is Dead!
Multiplying People, Rice, and Readers
A Teacher's Life

You can read some of my own efforts at poetry here.
And then there's Alien Invasion.

A weblog dedicated to Poetry for Children.
Watch Sonja Cole's reviews of children's books at Bookwink.com.
The PBS series Favorite Poem Project

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