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-Steiner, Head of School
"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
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