Heads Up

Welcome to Heads Up, a blogging experiment that aims to: 

  • connect the people, parts, and principles of Durham Academy;
  • share ideas about learning and human development;
  • spotlight a few of the many wondrous things I get to see every day at Durham Academy. 

Thanks for reading the posts below — and sending news, links and ideas worth sharing. 

Michael Ulku-SteinerHead of School 


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"Children believe in the power"

Two weeks ago, Duke Chapel hosted its annual Blessing of Animals. A few words from their website (the last line is priceless):

Duke Chapel has hosted a Blessing of Animals since 1989, a worship tradition made notable by the camels and other circus animals blessed each year at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. Last year, Duke Chapel ministers blessed animals ranging from hamsters to horses. *Please consider the wisdom of bringing aggressive animals.*

Two years ago, my mom recommended that I listen to The Writers Almanac, a 5-minute daily podcast by Garrison Keillor. I was quickly hooked – in part by the history lessons that start each segment and in part by the occasional poetic gems that shorten my commute and enlarge my soul.

Below is such a poem – one that echoes in my mind when I watch skilled teachers minister to our students and “the weight they carry,” pulling out vibrancy and confidence from the “tiny, unexplained life” that burns in each one of them.


Blessing of the Animals, by Faith Shearin

At my daughter’s Catholic school there is

a blessing of the animals at which

the children line up with their fat hamsters

and gauzy goldfish, their dogs so old

they can barely climb the hill. They bring

their cats with bald patches

and their lizards sleeping in cages

under a fake sun. In the line

to the priest there are snakes

with white eyes and birds without songs.

There are ant farms and worms and rats

with long, exposed tails. The children

wait hours for their animals

to be blessed: for the priest’s hand

to hover over the weight they carry.

They bring shoe boxes full of turtles,

hairy spiders, frogs with dry skin.

I like watching my daughter

among the other children: her dog

small in her arms, her gaze protective.

Children believe in the power

of animals, tucked into their feathers

and shells; they believe

in blessings: the sprinkle

of holy water, each tiny

unexplained life.


"Blessing of the Animals" by Faith Shearin from Telling the Bees. © Stephen Austin State University Press, 2015. Thanks to The Writers Almanac. Photo by Elizabeth Shafiroff/Reuters.



Posted by mulkus on Monday October, 17, 2016 at 09:40AM


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