Watch Brenda skate.

Brenda skates.jpg

Watching Brenda Skate

For one semester


has scarcely glanced up

from her seat near the back

while Michelle,

in the front row of the parallel class


and asks self-confident questions.


On a winter night

after the Christmas concert

while Michelle

picks her way down the hill …

Brenda, arms out,

sailing down the sidewalk

in starlight,

afraid of nothing.

—Peter Meister

Educators usually come to know only a fraction of the whole people we teach each day. This poem reminds me that when a student seems diffident in class, there may be another arena where she “sail[s] down the sidewalk/ in starlight,/ afraid of nothing.”

When we take the time to learn more about who students are outside of class, they tend to respond to the investment of interest. As an element of practice, “Watch Brenda skate” may mean attending students’ games or open mic performances, or simply asking about their weekend. (Also helpful are personal interest inventories and assignments that allow some measure of self-expression.) Gradually we become more effective educators for these students, and they gradually grow more confident in school.

[Article copyright 2015 by Peter Horn, Ed. D. Image by AP: French figure skater Mae Berenice Meite performing during the gala exhibition of the Ice Skating Bompard Trophy at Bercy arena in Paris, November, 2010.]

Peter Horn