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I read this poem with a student the other night. She had no assignments with her for our tutoring appointment, so I pulled this out of my bag of tricks. It ended up being serendipitous.

I’ve read this poem many times before, but this is the first time I saw it as a spiritual metaphor. I believe this is ultimately a poem of joy.

The Thing You Must Remember

by Maggie Anderson

The thing you must remember is how, as a child,

you worked hours in the art room, the teacher’s

hands over yours, molding the little clay dog.

You must remember how nothing mattered

but the imagined dog’s fur, the shape of his ears

and his paws. The gray clay felt dangerous,

your small hands were pressing what you couldn’t say

with your limited words. When the dog’s back

stiffened, then cracked into white shards

in the kiln, you learned how the beautiful

suffers from too much attention, how clumsy

a single vision can grow, and fragile

with trying too hard. The thing you must

remember is the art teacher’s capable

hands: large, rough and grainy,

over yours, holding on.

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As many of you know, I’m an English tutor for students in the Stevenson High School district (Long Grove, Buffalo Grove, Lincolnshire), Vernon Hills, Libertyville, and other suburbs. I’ve spent my Saturdays and Wednesday nights working with students since Lydia was two months old! As much as I love hanging out with my little ones, it’s very rewarding getting out of the house to talk about clauses and topic sentences in great detail. (I am not being sarcastic. I get very jazzed when a student and a semicolon click.)

Today I had a little bit of everything:ACT, vocabulary, expository essays, and an application essay for law school. Throw in some M&Ms for Halloween, and I’d say it was a successful learning experience for all!

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