I’ve spent the past couple of weeks studying ancient Chinese philosophies with my 9th graders. Last week my students analyzed poetry from the Tao Te Ching and wrote personal reflection essays in response to these lines from poem #33 from the Tao Te Ching:
Knowing others is intelligence;
knowing the self is enlightenment.
Conquering others is power;
conquering the self is strength.
I asked them to reflect on what “conquering the self” meant to them, and so they did. They wrote down their thoughts and shared their souls with me. It was beautiful and I was very proud of them. It was not an easy writing assignment. I never considering writing about oneself to be easy. It takes a lot of hard work and analysis, and sometimes a level of honesty we don’t often want to acknowledge. So to be fair, I did it too. That was always one of my teaching goals for the school year – to do the creative assignments I was asking my students to do.
This week my students are taking their Conquering the Self essays and creating erasure poems from the prose. Most of them are really excited to be doing something creative and having a lot of fun with it. I have one student that knows a lot of about text/photo manipulation, so he did his using that software. Another student asked for me to brew some tea so he could blot it on his poem to make it look more “worn and authentic.” Another student has some artistic talent and drew her words into colorful images. I wish I was as creative and artistic as some of my students. I’m not sure exactly how I’ll “display” my erasure poem, but I wanted to share it here, since I at least have it finished.
Here is my Conquering the Self essay and erasure poem, based on the assignment I gave to my 9th grade World History advanced students for our Taoist philosophy unit.
I yield to someone wiser
apologize for mistakes
I look to myself for
confidence and trust
what is this self?
I don’t give my awareness away
control gives relief
disconnect emotion and logic
true feeling is the reality everyone sees
they stare close
I’m staring into doubt
despite my capable compassion
why challenge emotions with emotions?
challenge judgment and doubt
agree to experience true love
this is how you stay in the present
/ / /
17 February 2015