Sunday, December 28, 2008

It's a Teacher's Life...! A Collection of Poems Set in a Girls' Private School

In my previous post Who is family? I talked about a woman who had been like an aunt to me, even though she was unrelated. Work colleagues - if one works long enough with them - can also become like 'family'. I have been fortunate to work with some colleagues, who are now like 'family' to me, and I talk about some of them in my book 'It's a Teacher's Life...!'

'The Cook', for instance...
'Joy is her name
and joy her very nature -
a cheerful greeting leaping
always from the lips
and a joyful laugh
chuckling in the throat...

Thank you, Joy, for brightening the day,
we're sorry to see you go;
may the days shine on you kindly
as you have shone on ours,
and may the gift of joy you have given us
be returned to you a thousandfold,
so you may be blessed with its warmth
and the prize of celestial gold.'

Copyright © 2008 Helena Harper

'Amy, the Able', Queen of Resources, is another:
'...the day is too short
for all the tasks
she’s asked to do;
the stress would crack many another
but Amy sails through
with humour cutting and quick,
her voice never rising
despite countless requests
from teachers wanting just this or just that.
No punches she pulls
when her comments are made,
but always the wicked chuckle is there
ready to break free -
it's what keeps her sane,
all the teachers agree.

What would we do without you, Amy?
No one knows,
it's a commendation of
the highest honour you deserve
for the work you produce
under pressure so great,
for coolness and calmness
served with a smile,
for honest directness
and willingness to go that extra mile.
You're a colleague in a million
a true friend indeed,
and surely one day
the rewards you will reap,
from the seeds of the harvest
you have sown so deep.'

Copyright © 2008 Helena Harper
(from 'It's a Teacher's Life...!')

What have your experiences with work colleagues been like?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Who is 'family'?

With Christmas nearly upon us, our thoughts inevitably turn to family. But whom do you consider to be 'family'? Is it just your blood relatives?

Many of us have close friends who are just as dear to us as 'family'. I had an 'Aunty' Thelma (a close friend of the family) who treated my sister and myself as kindly as any blood relative would have done, perhaps more so, as she didn't have any children of her own. She died a little while ago, at the grand old age of 93, and I was inspired to write the following poem for her funeral:

Two young girls,
honorary nieces
of a friend called Nick,
showered unfailingly
every birthday and Christmas
with cards and presents,
wonderful delights for childhood eyes.
Even into adulthood and beyond,
for near half a century,
though bodily ills rob her
of energy and activity,
no birthday or Christmas is forgot.
No blood aunt could have shown
more love or compassion,
greater thoughtfulness or kindness
or a heart steadier or more generous.
No relative could have given
greater cheerfulness or warmth
on visits to that cottage
of ancient charm,
nestling in Hampshire countryside
of verdant green,
feeding the soul with beauty,
peace and calm.
Memories of a woman tall and fashionable,
with happiness of heart
and lightness of smile,
of unceasing strength and dignity
as the lengthening years took their toll,
will most surely gladden the heart
in the days that are to come,
filling it with gratitude and thanks
for a wonderful soul,
freed now from physical bonds
and enriching eternity
with its infinite grace
and endless charity.
Thank you, Aunty Thelma,
for thinking of us so kindly
through all the many years,
for touching our hearts
with zest and joy -
we will never forget you,
as evidenced by our smiling tears.
Copyright © Helena Harper

If 'strangers' can grow as close to us as 'family', then - surely - all of mankind should be considered as potential family and we should treat them as such. What do you think?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Every problem is a gift

I was just watching Tony Robbins on his blog talking about problems being gifts which we need if we want to grow and develop as human beings and it reminded me forcefully of one of the poems in my second collection of poems, Family and More – Enemies or Friends? , where I talk about the people who have had a big influence on my life (the collection was initially inspired by the fact that I come from a mixed background: German mother, English father, meeting in Germany at the end of WWII, and the fact that for me none of my German relatives could ever be an 'enemy'). The poem in question is about a former boss – one of those bosses from hell I'm sure many of you have also experienced! - someone, who was much more like an 'enemy' to me than any of my German relatives could ever be. I finish off the poem like this:

Is she my hated foe, my enemy,
this woman, this boss
with whom I share no commonality?
How can she be?
She's a citizen of the same country!
But her actions, thoughts and beliefs
are anathema to me -
they make the soul cringe
and leave it icy cold,
making it retreat
into a dark black hole.
If she isn't my enemy, is she my friend?
What? Hardly!
What is she then?
Perhaps a valuable lesson in life,
from which I can learn and grow.
On second thoughts,
maybe she is more my friend
than I now suspect or know.

Copyright © 2008 Helena Harper

With hindsight, I realise that my former 'boss from hell' was a gift. From her I have learnt the value of treating people with respect, dignity and compassion and I hope I have come to understand the motivation for her actions better. The whole experience was necessary, perhaps, in order to make me a more understanding and forgiving person.

Have you had similar experiences? Do you consider problems to be gifts or are they just a pain in the neck? Are problems negative things for you or do you agree that something positive can be drawn from them, no matter what? I'd love to hear what you think!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Exhilarating freedom

Being a writer, people ask me why I write. Having a poetical turn of mind, I think I can best sum it up in a poem:

The blank page calls,
the heart responds,
imagination spreads wide its wings
and launches into infinity...
Fingers dance,
words flow,
the page fills,
the soul takes flight
and the spirit sings.
Copyright © Helena Harper

This is why I write – because it makes me feel exhilaratingly free (and this is why I gave up teaching after 20 years, because I felt like I was being put more and more in a straitjacket and was just going round and round in circles: anyone else have that feeling?). I can write what I like and how I like and that's a wonderful feeling!

I would love to know what makes you feel exhilarated and why? And how would you express it? (A thought's just occurred – perhaps this could be the subject of a third collection of poems...?)