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Who Will Clean Out The Desks?
June 10, 2022
Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.
-Ryunosuke Satoro, 1892-1927, Japanese Writer

Rachel Martin of National Public Radio writes, “As part of teacher appreciation month, Morning Edition asked NPR's audience to write a poem about teachers who have had an impact on their lives.

We put out this call a week before the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, so the majority of contributors are not reflecting on that horrific day but a late addition did reflect that loss.
We received over 300 responses, and NPR's poet in residence Kwame Alexander took lines from submissions to create a community poem.

This poem is dedicated to all teachers, but especially to Irma Garcia and Eva Mireles, fourth grade teachers who lost their lives at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.”

Below are excerpts from the poem. Visit NPR.org to read – and hear – the full poem and see the list of contributors. Exchange Press would include caregivers as well as teachers in our appreciation.

Who Will Clean Out the Desks
Teachers make a dent.
A soft curve in the gray matter
A crevice where light shines in
a seed to germinate.
They open eyes
kick open Imagination
Make us see
encourage change of mind
and change of heart
NOT to force the walking of a single path
But the revelation of many.

You see, Teachers make bad days into good
Make the journey as meaningful as the destination
Make reading rewarding
make good trouble.
Teachers make decisions.
Around 1,500 per day.
What to say, how to say it, and when
Teachers make love
out of everything.

Teachers leave the door open for us to walk through
but when the last bell rings
when the classroom is locked down
who will clean out all the desks?
The math worksheets
The missing LEGO,
the one goldfish cracker

At the end of the day
Who will help the teachers prepare for the next
Who will make a home for the heavy hearts,
for The sacred ones who can't stop thinking about those 19 desks,
those 19 backpacks
those 19 summer vacations,
those 19 new pairs of sandals.
those 19 next school years and school years after that
and after that and after that.

Just breathe and keep being kind to children
is their mantra –
Who will hold them in kind and caring arms
when the world is not so beautiful
when the summer burns red
when there are no more children
to be kind to.
I say, Let it be us.
Because teachers matter.

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