When I graduated from college I taught 7th -10th grade English.
I learned that not everyone really likes English class but one of my favorite things about teaching it was the rich literature we read and discussed.
Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe and Langston Hughes were among my favorites.
What I loved the most was our discussions of these writings and how they can reflect our lives, attitudes, and choices.
One thing that’s powerful about a well-written piece of literature is it’s ability to affect the attitudes and choices of people for years to come.
The students did not like memorizing poems but we did it anyway. The words of poems I memorized even in elementary still come to mind and bring beauty to my life.
One of the poems we studied and memorized was “If” by Rudyard Kipling. It’s been in my mind a lot lately … it’s Kipling’s advice to his son and still good advice to youth and adults alike .
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run—
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!