Among School Children
Review of Poetry Work by William Butler Yeats Through Evaluation of “Wild Swans at Coole” and “Among School Children”
Module B- Critical Study of Texts (Yeats: Wild Swans at Coole & Among School Children)
Q: Great texts take the pain of existence and try to make sense of it
Yeats poetry effectively communicates potent and universal ideas, which continue to make his poetry of relevance to today. His excellence in artistic expression enables him to intertwine his own ideas and philosophies and contextual issues, and allowing us as responders to broaden our understanding and perspectives on life. It is affirmative that great texts such as “Wild Swans at Coole” and “Among School Children” take the pain of existence and try to make sense of it. Both texts thoroughly examine the transcendental tensions between the purpose of life and the eventual decline of physical and spiritual aging through self- reflection and retrospection.
Yates intense preoccupation with aging is clearly evident in “Wild Swans at Coole”. In the period in which it was written, Yeats was a middle-aged man, genuinely “sore”-hearted, genuinely capable of reflecting maturely, seriously and without melodrama, on the passage of time. The poem presents to its audience a mournful feel about loss and change and focuses on Yeats favourite images, the swan. It is metaphorically apparent throughout that Yeats morphs the swans into permanent embodiments of feeling and inspiration. In other words, the transience of life, that human were destined to born and die. He refuses to be a prisoner of time and unwillingly ‘rejects’ the cycle of life. A sense of vulnerability surfaces when Yeats realises the natural and uncontrolled state of the swans and nature itself and he is unable to take control of. In relation, the swans look eternally youthful, making it unable to differentiate them whereas in stark contrast, aging is evident in humans. “All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight for the first time on this shore” when I “trod with a lighter tread” refers back to the childlike state of Yeats with the desperate longing for it again. The poet constant temporal references in Stanza 1, with reference to the words “autumn”, “October” and “twilight” suggests the arrival of death and decay, the time of passing and diminishing life. These words, in common relate to the approaching and awareness of the end, accentuating the idea of the passing of time. Moreover, the lack of love in Yeat’s life that makes the harshness of growing old more apparent whereas the coupled swans, ‘lover by lover’ are paired, enhancing the challenges of growing old associated with the pain of existence.
Alike wild swans, Among School Children embodies Yeats ongoing struggle between age and transcendence Being among school children, Yeats confronts human frailty, reflecting on the impact and worth of his life. Frightened by the inevitability of death, he initially chooses to wear a mask of acceptance and reconciliation, while he struggles internally-agonized by the value of life itself. By comparing with Maud Gonne’s current appearance to her appearance in youth “And wonder if she stood so at that age”, he realizes time’s toll on the physical being. After finally understanding the mortal implications of humanity, Yeats searches desperately for any possible way to subvert his certain death. He reminisces the immense love and relation he shared with Maud Gonne and metaphorically depicts their relationship to an egg “Into the yolk and white of the one shell” for they felt like they were one, indicating a sense of belonging with one another. The poet then continues about how legends such as Aristotle and Pythagoras whom were able to achieve great things in life but are still the victim of transcendence. Through an intense examination, Yeats realizes the necessity of a peaceful, self-honest existence and challenges the pain of it.
The swan is used by Yeats as a focal symbol- variously used as a symbol for the artist’s pride, the idea of solitude in the face of death and approaching night, wildness, rage and unsatisfied desire, but mainly the idea of a union between perfect beauty and divine strength-passion and conquest. Besides being an intricate symbol of youth, Yeats seems to observe the changelessness of their pattern, the perfect pattern of art which preserves youth in the “artiface of eternity”. He explicitly exemplifies his work to resemble a piece of art, in which purpose is to capture and preserve the moment, which in this scenario is the moment of reminiscing the enticing view of the imperial swans. Art also offers individuals a sense of consolation and reassurance. The poet knows his position in society and unwillingly regards the unchangeable fact that he like other humans must face death. In order to be remembered, he utilises art to “live on”, that although he has passed on, his works will be embedded in the hearts of many and regarded as a symbol of aspiration and will never perish.
Among School Children on the other hand reflects an intense concern with the process of growing old with its associated notions of decay and the looming threat of death on both a physical and spiritual level. The imagery of an aged man as a ‘scarecrow’ is prominent in the fourth stanza which relates to his thoughts on aging. Yeats felt he was a scarecrow, indicating its loneliness and hollowness, presenting just a mask to the children, concealing his discontent. He then ponders the past where he and Maud Gonne were not bad looking before and made references to art, culture and philosophy and emphasises the significance of it. The poet speculates on the human relationships he has been seeing and remembering: Nuns and worship, Lovers, Mother and child, all having the tendency subjecting to idealisation. All these images inevitably break the hearts of those adoring them, and proposes the fact that our self-created idols invariably disappoint.According to Vendler, a well-known critic, that worship always disappoint to mock our efforts and refer to it as self-born deceiving solaces. She mentions that “Life is a solitary but endlessly satisfying set of inventions and this poem acknowledges the truth of universal outbreak without entirely destroying the continuity of being. While wild swans utilizes animalistic imagery, here Yeats focuses on beings of past and present to overcome the challenges of human existence.
In conclusion, Yeats has written a philosophical poem for everyone through an art form available to all that depicts a continued display of life losses through the idea of aging and the encompassed concepts of reflection that allows Yeats to overcome the pain of existence thoroughly.
Parent’s Involvement in Childrens’ Schools.
There are many reasons that parents should get involved in their children’s school. Students who have concerned and involved parents tend to get better grades. When a parent asks questions about homework and assignments, supervises to make sure that they get done, and even helps with homework, it is more likely that assignments will be completed and handed in on time. Another factor in grades is attendance. With a low attendance rate, assignments will be missed, and the student will get behind in content as well. Parents who do not get involved in the school might not know that their child is not attending on a regular basis, or even care if their child goes. When children are first starting school, or transitioning from pre-school to elementary school or elementary to middle school, the transition is easier when parents are involved. If a child is unhappy about being in school, but their parents volunteer in the school, the child will see their parents there and be less upset because they will not be separated from them. For whatever reason, if a child is nervous or simply misses his or her parent, seeing the familiar face in the hallway or just knowing that they are in the building is comforting and makes the transition into school easier.
Along with parents helping with homework and supervising that projects are completed, giving support to a child will make them more likely to pass from grade to grade. Without parent involvement, unless a child is self-motivated to go to school and do their work, it will be difficult to pass to the next grade level, and in time, graduate. When students see that their parents are involved in their school, it shows them that their parents care about their education. This sets a good example for the student, and they are likely to model their parents and believe that education is important and beneficial. This is especially true when students see their parents volunteering in their school. In order for a child to see their education as something important, they have to believe that their parents feel the same, especially at a young age. Reasons Parents Don’t Get Involved.
Sometimes parents do not get involved in their child’s education for a completely different reason than not caring. Parents of low-income and minority families have a tendency to be less involved or not involved at all. In the case of minority parents, they may speak a language other than English and it may be hard to communicate with the teacher. This is a big reason why schools should provide multi-lingual assistance so minority families can be just as involved as anyone else. The language barrier also makes it difficult to help children with homework or projects, because even if the child can translate for them, they may not know or understand the content. Another aspect of minority families is their culture. Different cultures have different ways of schooling, so the way things are done in America may seem odd to minority families.
Low-income or single parents may not be involved in their child’s school because they have bigger problems on their mind and it may not occur to them to ask their son or daughter about their day at school. This may make it hard for a child to succeed anyway, and these are the kids that need their parents to be involved the most. Children model their parents, and when a parent is noticeably worrying about where the families’ next meal is coming from, the child will pick up on that and spend less time worrying about schoolwork and more about their situation at home.
Another reason for parents not to get involved at school is because they do not feel welcome. Research has found that in middle school especially, parents who were once involved tend to hang back . When a child is in elementary school, the parents are used to one or a few teachers and faculty knowing their child very well. In middle school, the child has a teacher for each different subject, and the parents may find it hard to get to know each teacher, or frustrating that a teacher might not recognize their child’s needs because they aren’t with them all day. On any grade level, however, if parents do not feel welcome in the school, the chances of them volunteering or becoming involved are much smaller. They may still take an active role in the home, making sure homework is completed and things of that nature, but they are much less likely to take part in anything with the school itself.
As children get older, parents sometimes feel like they should be independent enough to handle their schoolwork and attendance on their own. Some kids may feel embarrassed to have their parents volunteer in the school, so as kids get older, the lower the rate of parent participation drops. When they were younger, it may have been fun or a privilege to see parents in their school, but once they get to high school, or sometimes middle school, some kids feel like their parents are spying on them or are making them look “un-cool” to their peers. Other than parents feeling that their child should be able to take on the responsibility of doing their homework on their own, there is the possibility that parents may no longer know the subject matter, so they do not offer assistance with homework. When a student in high school reaches a level in math or science that surpasses their parents’ knowledge, the parents cannot be of any help and the student may no longer complete all of their assignments.
How to Get Involved
Some parents simply are not sure how they can get involved. There are many ways to do this, both in the school itself and in the home. At home, parents should always ask questions, such as, “how was your day?” and “what did you learn in school?” These questions provide insight for the parent and open the doors of communication between the parent and child. Other examples of things parents can do with their children at home include reading with them and coloring with them. These activities should be part of the daily routine, because parents are the first teachers. They can read to the child, and when the child learns to read on their own, the child can read to them. Activities like these should never be pushed aside because children always need reinforcement of what they are doing in school, and they need to see it in their home.
Parents can also find ways to get involved that put them in the school and get them talking to teachers and administrators. Parents should always make an effort to meet their child’s teachers and principal, and any other authority figures in the school that their child interacts with. Regular parent-teacher conferences should be scheduled. For these conferences, parents should come prepared with specific questions. This is one of the easiest ways for parents to monitor their child’s behavior and progress in school. In the case of minority families who need information in other languages, they should request it on their own if it is not already available. The community is another way for parents to get involved. Parents should form social networks with other parents at the school and in their child’s classes. For starters, a larger group will make a bigger difference in the quality of the school, and if they would like a change to be made, it is easier to accomplish when more people are backing it.
Also, parents are more likely to get involved when they see other parents doing it. Other parents are a very good communication tool, but also can be a source of invalid information sometimes. Cases like that require the judgment of the parents involved to decide on their own what they believe is best for their own child. How Teachers Can Help The parents are not the only people with a responsibility to be involved with the school. The school has an equal responsibility to get the families involved. They can do this in many ways. Teachers should communicate with parents about everything that is taking place in their classroom. When there are problems, the teacher has to communicate these to the parents, but in a way that is going to make the parents feel like they can work together to solve them. If the parent feels like their child is being attacked, they will go on the defensive, and the teacher-family relationship will be difficult to form. Teachers have to remember to communicate the positive things as well as the negative. Parents will feel more welcome in the school system if they are receiving calls or notes home with their child telling them of an accomplishment their child made or something positive that happened that day. It is also important for teachers to let parents know about changes being made to programs or special activities planned. This is another way to get parents involved, because teachers can ask for parent volunteers for special activities such as field trips and class parties.
The teacher could also extend an invitation for parents to watch plays and ceremonies, or to join a class party. Another idea would be for the teacher to offer extra credit for events like Take Your Child to Work Day or Grandparents Day, where the children can bring their grandparents in to the classroom, or Career Day, where parents could come in and talk about their job. Teachers can see the progress and struggles that a child goes through on a daily basis in the classroom. Based on this, they can provide supplemental materials for the parents to work on with them at home. They can suggest activities to build or reinforce skills, because, again, the parent is the first teacher. When concepts and activities carry over from school to home, the child will retain them longer and gain a better understanding of them.
While parents may know their child best, they do not always recognize their weaknesses. Sometimes a parent is biased and may not really know what is best for their child. Teachers and parents both need to realize this and work together to create the learning environment that will be best for the child. For example, the parents may not think that their child has any trouble reading because at home they read to the child and the child seems to be able to read as well. In school, the child may not be reading very well. This could be caused by any number of things, including the level of the books being read, whether or not the child is reading out loud at home (they could be pretending if the parents think they are reading in their head), or even a problem with vision. This is why parents and teachers need to work together to gain a better understanding of the problem and work together to solve it.
Technology to Help Parent Involvement
Technology is a simple way to enhance communication between parents and teachers. Voice mail makes it easy to make sure messages are being given to the other party. If a note is being sent home or to school with the child, there is a chance that it will not get to the person it is supposed to. If a phone call cannot reach the parent or teacher right away, voice mail is almost a guarantee that the message will still be relayed as long as the person listens to their messages. This takes the responsibility off of the child and places it on the teacher and parent.
The internet is also a very useful tool in parent/teacher communication. A school webpage can list upcoming events, teacher e-mail addresses and phone numbers, and any other useful information. Parents could easily locate any information they needed this way, and this also puts the responsibility on the parent. A child can be forgetful and not give papers and things to parents when they get home at the end of the school day, and even if they do, parents could lose them. A website makes the information ready and available at any time. Teachers could have their own personal websites as well, with grades and assignments listed. E-mail is another way for teachers and parents to contact one another. It is a fast, easy way of communication.
Conclusion Parents are a crucial part of their child’s education. Their support will help their child succeed at any level of the educational process. Children need to know that their parents view education as important, so that they will as well. The school is equally responsible for making sure parents are involved in children’s education. The aim of most parents and teachers is to make the learning process and enjoyable and beneficial one for the student, and for the student to get as much out of school as they can. To do this, they must work together and form relationships that will work to help children succeed.
References Books Burns, R. C., & McClure, R. M. (2012). Parents and schools: From visitors to partners. Washington, D.C.: National Education Association.
This book discusses communication as a key aspect of parent involvement in schools and how technology can greatly help communication between parents and teachers. Also, the parent is the first teacher. A project called “Family Connections” tries to unite the teachers and parents.
Comer, J. P. (2010). Building successful partnerships: A guide for developing parent and family involvement programs. Bloomington, IN: National Educational Service. This book is part of the National Parent/Teacher Association’s efforts to get parents involved in schools. There are six standards, including communicating, parenting, student learning, volunteering, school decision making, and collaborating with the community. Surveys are also included, along with worksheets for evaluating home, school, and community partnerships.
McCaleb, S. P. (2004). Building communities of learners: A collaboration among teachers, students, families, and community. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
There are sections on: programs to get communities and families involved in education, research of a multilingual first grade classroom setting with multicultural parents, the role of the teacher in getting parents involved, trends in parent involvement in education, and suggestions for teachers.
Journal Articles Hite, S.J., & Young, J. (2004). The status of teacher preservice preparation for parent involvement: A national study. Education, 115(1), 153-161. Retrieved April 11, 2004 from Academic Search/EBSCO database.
A national study supporting parental involvement in schools that proves the positive affects parent involvement has on the students.
L., E.C. (2003). Parents – A new keyword in education. Teacher’s College Record, 94(4), 677-68. Retrieved February 19, 2004 from Academic Search/EBSCO database.
This article described two theories: “parent-as-savior” and “family-is-school.” It gives both positive and negative points about parental involvement. The author also says that home is the primary place of education, so parents should do certain things like reading and coloring with their child. Lecklider, D., McClintock, P. J, Shepard, R. G., Trimberger, A. K.(1999). Empowering family-school partnerships: An integrated hierarchical model. Contemporary Education, 70(3), 33-38. Retrieved April 13, 2004 from Academic Search/EBSCO database.
Discusses obstacles such as defining what the term parental involvement really means, and how confusion over this may lead to less involvement. Presents a hierarchal model for family-school partnerships. Politis, C. (2004). When parents won’t get involved. Early Childhood Today, 18(4), 10. Retrieved April 11, 2004 from Academic Search/EBSCO database. Gives reasons parents may not get involved with their child’s school.
Sheldon, S. (March 2002). Parents social networks and beliefs as predictors of parent involvement. Elementary School Journal, 102(4), 301-317. Retrieved February 26, 2004 from Academic Search/EBSCO database.
Gave reasons why some parents may not be as involved in their child’s school as they should be. Some parents have expressed not feeling welcome in their child’s school, and this should never be the case. Building social networks can help to overcome this, and the article tells how. No author given. (2003) Be strategic to boost family involvement. District Administration, 39(12), 44. Retrieved April 9, 2004 from Academic Search/EBSCO Database.
Lists suggestions to get parents involved with their child’s education. Internet Resources Skinner, R. ( January 6, 2004 ). Parental involvement. Education Week. Retrieved February 13, 2004 from Education Week Online.
Discussed different ways that parents can get involved in their child’s education, and ways the school can help to get parents involved; stated that there is less parental involvement in schools with a large number of minorities and as children get older, parental involvement diminishes. National Education Association. (2004). Retrieved April 30, 2004 from parent involvement, explains why it is important, and gives links to research that proves how important and influential parent involvement is.
The national coalition for parent involvement in education. (2004). Retrieved on April 6, 2004 from website includes suggestions for parents and schools, and discusses why parent involvement is so important. Community services can also be helpful in creating relationships between parents and schools. The national pta. (2004). Retrieved on April 15, 2004 from are tips on how parents can become better involved in the classroom, as well as reasons why parent involvement is so important. Educational Dictionary EBSCOhost Thesaurus. (2004). Retrieved on May 1, 2004 from ERIC Databases. Thesaurus in the ERIC Database that gives different ways to word a topic, so more articles can be found.
Newspaper Article Cromer, Katherine. (February 24, 2004). OB parents’ involvement hailed. The Commercial Appeal. Retrieved on February 25, 2004 from Lexis-Nexis Database.
A newspaper article about parents being in the school volunteering and the positive effects it has had. Children are happy to see their parents at school and this lessens the amount of work that teachers and administrators have to do to try to get parents involved. The parents actually being in the school also gives off the impression to the students that their parents find education important, so they strive to do well.
Teaching Smart. Schwab’s Four Commonplaces, Zajac’s Focus
Schwab’s Four Commonplaces and Zajac’s Focus
As any knowledgeable teacher can attest to, teaching is not easy. In fact, it can be a grueling, tiresome task at times, if only because there is so much more to a teacher than merely dispensing facts and educating students about history, math, or reading. A teacher is a motivator, a psychologist, a referee, a decision maker, an organizer, and so much more. To this extent, it can be overwhelming, as a new teacher, to determine what aspect of classroom life demands the most attention. Joseph J. Schwab (1973) sheds light on this problem through his theory of four commonplaces, where he states that there are four things an educator must take into account when teaching: the student, the teacher, the milieus, or the environment in which the child learns and grows, and the curriculum. These four aspects of educational thought are all of equal importance, and one must never overshadow the others. However, not all teachers can achieve this balance, causing their teaching style to unconsciously lean towards one commonplace. This disproportion is reflected in Tracy Kidder’s nonfiction work, Among Schoolchildren, in which he chronicles a year in the life of Chris Zajac, a fifth-grade teacher, and her rambunctious class. Mrs. Zajac is an extremely talented, effective teacher and a model of inspiration for aspiring educators; however, she displays a tendency to favor her students over the other three commonplaces. Mrs. Zajac’s teaching style is greatly enhanced by her unbridled love for her students, yet the question remains: does this passion for children blind her to the other aspects essential for teaching?
Schwab’s theory of the four commonplaces does not suggest that each commonplace should be taken individually; rather, “coordination, not superordination-subordination is the proper relation of these four commonplaces” (1973, p. 509). The teacher, student, milieu, and curriculum all intertwine, and none of them should be ignored. When defining these commonplaces, Schwab identifies the milieus that are relevant to teaching as “the school and classroom in which the learning and teaching are supposed to occur […] the family, the community, the particular groupings of religious, class, or ethnic genus” (1973, p. 503). Each of these environments is essential in understanding the students that are to be taught, their attitudes about education, the influence that their parents have on them, how they relate to their peers and to the teacher, and, ultimately, the person that they can become if only they are properly cultivated. The teacher is equally important, as she “will most often serve in the role of umpire and serve more extensively as the more mature member of the learning community” (Schwab, 1973, p. 509). She becomes a role in teaching herself, not just the one who teaches the children, but only one part of the larger whole of the educational process. Likewise, curriculum and the subject matter taught is a necessary component of educational thought. It is “the source from which and by which selection is made of the provocative objects and events which serve as catalysts of curricular activity” (Schwab, 1973, p. 509). Without a curriculum to be taught, teaching simply cannot exist. But despite its extreme importance, the teacher must be aware that it should not be placed over the other commonplaces because it alone is not all-encompassing; it coexists with the teacher, the students, and the milieus which surround them. Schwab’s final commonplace is that of the learner and the student. Schwab explains that teaching “must include general knowledge of the age group under consideration: what it already knows, what it is ready to learn, what will come easy, what will be difficult” (1973, p. 502) and much more. The students are a central, indispensible part of teaching and learning, and a good teacher knows her students strengths, weaknesses, and limits and works together with them to help them learn and grow. Without this love and dedication to her students and a desire to help them reach their full potential, a teacher cannot succeed.
Mrs. Zajac focuses her attention primarily on this aspect of the student, embodying a child-centered philosophy of education. Everything she does is done with the good of her children in mind. Even when thinking about her curriculum and assigning tasks in the classroom, the well-being of her students is first and foremost. When dividing the children into pairs to practice their spelling, “Chris paired up good spellers with poor ones. She also made spelling an exercise in socialization, by putting together children who did not seem predisposed to like each other” (Kidder, 1989, p. 29). She works hard to establish harmony in her classroom and brings together two radically different students in the hopes of helping them overcome their differences, showing them that they aren’t as unalike as they think they are, and establishing bonds of support. She intuitively senses the mood of her class and on long, exhausting days where the kids are sleepy and unmotivated, she takes their disposition and adapts to it, playing up her comical side and rejuvenating them: “There was a lot more light in the room now. It came from smiles” (Kidder, 1989, p. 43). Her enthusiasm and dedication, coupled with her focus on the commonplace of the student, contributes to her success as an engaging teacher. Schwab also states that this commonplace “should include intimate knowledge of the children under consideration – knowledge achieved by direct involvement with them” (1973, p. 502). Chris perfectly exemplifies this, as she develops close, intimate bonds with each of her students. After a long day at school, she settles into her dining hall and begins correcting papers, taking the time to reflect on each student individually. She doesn’t simply scan the tests, look for the right answers, count the number of wrong answers, and scribble down a grade in red, branding ink; rather, she uses the opportunity to pay attention to each and every one of her students, taking into consideration the knowledge she’s garnered from personal experiences in her classroom where she gets to know each individual. In her dining room, “one by one, her class would file into this quiet, orderly room. Here, many problems seemed manageable, or at least she could imagine that she had time to work on every child’s problems” (Kidder, 1989, p. 72). Mrs. Zajac observes her children, taking note of their strengths and weaknesses and always doing her best to help them improve. Her faith in them, even in the troublesome ones like Claude and Robert, is unshakeable. Through her involvement with her students and the close bonds she forms with them, she learns about what is right for each individual, and she knows that taking Juanita or Clarence away from the class is the worst thing that could be done to them. Unfortunately, Chris herself learns that there are uncontrollable circumstances in life and, no matter how hard she works or how strong her focus is, she cannot fix everything. “But,” she reflects, “It wasn’t for lack of trying. She hadn’t given up. She had run out of time” (Kidder, 1989, p. 331).
However, there are drawbacks to her child-centered approach to teaching. By placing the majority of focus on the student, Mrs. Zajac unintentionally neglects the other commonplaces, which results in Robert’s downfall. After several frustrating encounters, Chris places Robert into a predefined role, thinking that she has figured him out and leaving it at that. She assumes, “Robert wanted her to yell at him. He wanted her attention” (Kidder, 1989, p. 214). Yet, this perception blinds her to the truth behind Robert’s behavior, and she lets her general knowledge of troublemaking students like him overshadow the lost little boy seeking help that he is on the inside. She ignores the role that Robert’s home environment, or milieu, plays and doesn’t catch on to the hints that he drops about his broken family that affect him so deeply. When she realizes her mistake, Mrs. Zajac feels her heart sink and she berates herself:
“How many times had something like this happened to him in his life already? Was this the reason Robert behaved as he did? Is self-inflicted pain better than sadness and despair? […] He had no one at home to help him make an electric light. That was why he’d said he didn’t want to do a project. He wasn’t just being perverse. ‘How stupid I am!’ she thought” (Kidder, 1989, p. 283).
She also falls prey to the same error of overlooking Schwab’s (1973) milieu commonplace with Blanca, who is unfortunately whisked away before she can correct her mistake: “She remembered Blanca’s frightened eyes, and reproached herself: That girl was probably a victim of sexual abuse, Chris decided. She hadn’t done enough, she thought” (Kidder, 1989, p. 312). Mrs. Zajac initially dismissed her as a quiet, easily-frightened girl whom she needed to “get into” (Kidder, 1989, p. 78) at some point in the future, failing to notice the warning signs until it was too late.
Chris Zajac’s love for her students gives her great insight and guides her teaching spectacularly. Of Schwab’s four commonplaces, her teaching style clearly focuses prominently on the student, which enables her to identify with the children and create a well-rounded, rich learning experience for them. However, she, like all teachers, must be careful to keep this passion from blocking out other, equally important aspects essential to teaching. There is more to teaching than simply loving children; as Schwab asserts, one must strike a balance between the four commonplaces of the student, the teacher, the curriculum, and the milieus of both the classroom and the home. Only after equalizing these four aspects can a teacher truly excel.
Among School Children by William Butler Yeats: Synthesis of Thematic Binaries
Analytical/Research Paper: “Among School Children”
Written in 1926 following a visit to a convent school Waterford, Ireland, “Among School Children” by William Butler Yeats, is a multilayered poem–a meditation by an aging man on life, love, and creativity. Didactic in certain areas, this poem possesses an overarching transcendence as Yeats considers universal themes such as human frailty, the inevitability of death, and moral implications from which no human person is exempt. In so doing, Yeats writes his poem in the form of an ottava rima, in which the whole work is written in eight lines and eight stanzas in regular rhythm and rhyme scheme. Usually this poem structure is employed for epics, but for Yeats, this poem is epic–an epic reflection on his attempt to consolidate the binary oppositions between such themes of life and death, youth and old age, beauty and suffering, and the past and the present. Through this analysis, we will consider each stanzas’ composition of points of view, analogies/metaphors, and symbolism by which he goes about synthesizing these thematic binaries.
The poem begins with a “sixty-year old smiling public man” (8), strolling through the classroom in Waterford, Ireland, a convent school that focused on interactive learning and the principles of free expressions where children learn by discovery rather than instruction (Saint Ignatius College of English). Hence, this classroom is perhaps more of a metaphor for the “schoolroom of life,” where real lessons come from life, not the lecture hall.
Yeats progresses to his second stanza where his thoughts stray to “a Ledaean body” (9), a Greek mythological illusion, which is perhaps an ambiguous reference to his unrequited lover, Maude Gonne, who he met at only 23 years old and to whom he proposed five times and who ended up marrying someone else. Yeats refers to that first fateful meeting as the day the troubling of his life began (Macmillan). His lost lover was something that deeply affected him for virtually the rest of his life, and this brokenness is manifested as the rhythm in the second stanza becomes fractured by enjambment.
In line seventeen, Yeats mentions “Plato’s parable,” which is concerned with the genesis, nature, and purpose of love. Plato explores this theory that God created man and woman by splitting an egg-like shape into two halves, sending man and woman into a constant search for their other halves for their whole lives. This Platonic concept of love is possibly how Yeats saw and desired the relationship between himself and Gonne to be, “the yoke and white of the one shell” (18).
The fifth stanza changes course by digressing from an aging man to the perspective of his own mother, who had him at the young age of 24. He uses this stanza to ponder the possibilities of what his mother would think of him now at this point in his life. That is, if his achievements thus far have been significant compensation for the pains of childbirth. “What youthful mother…/Would think of her son, did she but see that shape/…A compensation for the pang of his birth…/” (40, 44-46). At the end of the stanza, he leaves his question unanswered, and instead employs a metaphor of “sixty or more winters” (45), a desolate image of life being a concept of struggle and sacrifice.
Still searching for some answers, Yeats progresses onward to hone in on major philosophers, Plato, Aristotle, and Pythagoras, who all had their own views on the essence and value of education–Plato as the idealist, Aristotle as the realist who tutored the legendary Alexander the Great, and Pythagoras as the mathematician and astronomer. Yeats comments on the reality that despite all of these great men from history who possessed a profound level of education, could not escape their own mortality. “They too are old clothes upon old sticks to scare a bird” (53) as Yeats himself is, too.
The final stanza has many layers to it. It is in this last moment that Yeats makes his finals remarks, but this time recalibrates his thoughts to discuss his search for reconciliation and acceptance. He mentions in the beginning of the poem that he is intrigued by the great paradoxes of life. To Yeats, paradoxes are powerful tools in both life and literature because it is only when we set these paradoxes parallel to each other, that we realize the connection and the value of that connection between them. It is also here that Yeats finally reaches this reconciliation of opposites and this unity of being in the last lines of the piece. This is not to say that Yeats gives us any answers throughout the poem. Rather, the eight stanzas serve the purpose of raising even more questions. For instance, at the very end, Yeats crafts two potent metaphors we should all consider the value that being aware of the connection between things presents.
The first is the image of the chestnut tree that is composed of many parts, equalling the whole: the roots, the leaves, the blossoms, and the bole. Without any one of these parts, the chestnut tree would not be the chestnut tree standing before us.
Yeats then moves on the evocative and sensual image of dancing. Dancing is his metaphor for the unity between body and spirit, creator and creation, and art and the artist. In all, life is not about answering questions, but instead, it is about seeking answers. He proves this by presenting his own rhetorical questions, showing that one needs to ask the questions to blossom and thrive. For Yeats, to separate the blossom from the leaves is to deny and ultimately dismantle the unity of being.
Most of the Yeats’ early poetry in the 1890s used symbols from ordinary life from familiar traditions, especially those find in his Irish subjects. Moreover, it was also during this time period that he became quite interested in different poetic techniques. In 1890 he and English poet, Lionel Johnson, formed the Rhymer’s Club, a group of London poets who met to read and discuss their poems. The Rhymers placed a high value on craftsmanship and preferred “sophisticated aestheticism to nationalism” (Poetry Foundation). Yeats remained adamant to the Rhymer’s tenet that a poet should labor at “at rhythm and cadence, at form and style” (Poetry Foundation). For this reason, it can confirmed that “Among School Children” is a typical work for this poet. This work focuses on the everyday activity of schooling in an average neighborhood in his homeland of Ireland. His use of ottava rima, a specific structural approach to poetry writing, also showcases the typicalness of this particular poem.
The early twentieth century witnessed much push back against the formal structure and style that had previously dominated the poetic world. The modernist movement of the early 1900s was a method to remind the masses that poetry is meant to be elegant and beautiful. Poems thus became shorter and more concise, as less ornate and simpler styles of poem became preferred. Yeats, along with Robert Frost, and W. H. Auden were some other well-known modernist poets of the time.
“Among School Children” is a poem that represents the major complexities of life, entailing the inevitability of mortality, the dynamics of love and suffering, and the binaries of youth and old age. Yeats uses metaphors and allusions to portray his ideas, hopes, and curiosities throughout his poem, while remaining true to his values on how a poem should be constructed, and it is because of this fact, that this poem has become one of the most influential poems of the twentieth century, and why its writer has become a major player in the modernist movement of early 1900s England.