The Gift of Words: A Haibun

Words are the building blocks of thought—and stories. Words spoken by a blind poet around the campfires of old celebrated the cunning ways of a rogue named Odysseus. Words written by Hebrew poets on parchment still tell the tale of the origins of our world: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”
My special education students use words every day, not to tell stories, but for far more mundane purposes: “May I go to the restroom?” “I need to sharpen my pencil.” “Can I get a drink of water?”
My students’ vocabularies are limited, and one of my jobs is to help them increase their vocabularies, because words are the building blocks of thought—and stories.
I select five words at random from a list—wrinkles, envy, odyssey, untidy, falcon—and ask my students to find the definitions, and use each word in a sentence. When that task proves too daunting for more than half of them, I make up sentences, write them on the board, and ask my students to copy them.
“Get acquainted with these words,” I say, “because tomorrow we’re going to use them to write a story.”
And we do:
Once upon a time there was a falcon named Julian (although sometimes he called himself Joshua). He was a very confused falcon—probably because he lived in an untidy nest. One day he decided to start an odyssey. The odyssey would take him to a magical land where the phoenixes rise every morning. The odyssey lasted so long that wrinkles appeared on the falcon’s face. He grew wise, and became the envy of other birds who lacked wisdom.
“I like that!” I exclaim as we finish our story. “I think I could turn what we’ve written into a book.”
Even if I never expand the story of Julian the Confused Falcon into a book, this little writing exercise engages every student—even my non-readers. Like the blind poet of old, they eagerly share their ideas orally as I write them on the board. Unlike Homer, however, my students tell their tale briefly.
Who’s to say that a long tale is better than a short one—or vice versa? What’s important is giving my students the gift of words so that one day, without my help, they will be able to tell their own tales as their eager children gather round to listen.

Overcast morning:
I search for a new story
in the blackbird’s beak.


Haibun © 2019 by Magical Mystical Teacher
More Midweek Motif at Poets United: “Gift”

Posted on May 8, 2019, in haibun, Midweek Motif, Poets United and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. The whole of life is made up of little stories that usually overlap. I love what you’re doing with your students. And a killer haiku!

  2. This is my favorite of all your writings! What a gift! Words about words, about the joy of teaching, about seeing beyond limits. Wonderful!

  3. The students are receiving the best gift of their life: gift of words. The end haiku is beyond beautiful. Thank you for the gift of this poem.

  4. Lisa at Greenbow

    This is such an encouraging story. Words words words. Wonderful words.

  5. Without words, we’re trapped, inside of a void, unable to communicate with those around us. Dying a slow death. MMT, I salute you, on your worthy task of giving a possible live saving skill to your students. May they blossom and grow, under your tutorial.

  6. What a gift it is to awaken in children a love of words, and stories. I remember in grade three , the first word I ever fell in love with: paw (of course!) I LOVE looking for a story in the blackbird’s beak!

  7. What a lovely lesson you have taught. I am sure your students love you and enjoy the lessons.

  8. The gift of words! so beautiful.

  9. You had me at the opening line! ❤️ This poem is a treasure trove of wisdom! 😀

  10. Well you certainly captured our attenion for a bit longer that usual with is delightful haibun. Not only that instead of us thinking that all you did was watch cactus grow in the desert you have a job you clearly enjoy teaching children..and especially in writing which we all love.

  11. Oh, this is precious. Bravo

    much love…

  12. I think it is a gift that every day you give to others and make an important difference in young lives. I know you don’t get paid as much as Lady Gaga but I think I can say confidently that you prefer your job to hers.:)

  13. What a gift your are giving to your students. And to your blogger circles. Thank you.

  14. Yours is a remarkable gift, and it deserves a round of applause. What a difference you make in these young people’s lives! Because words are the building blocks of thought, indeed. Love this!

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