Thursday, December 20, 2007


Day 72, December 20, 2007


Dear Parents of 8th graders,

I’m feeling very grateful as the students and I come to the end of the first 72 days of English class. For me, it has been an absolute blessing, right from the start, to work with your children. Every year I feel so lucky that I somehow was led to be a teacher and that in some wonderful way I was led to our little school some 30 years ago — and this year I feel more fortunate than ever. Truly, your children make up one of the kindest and most caring 8th grade classes I can recall. Our English classes, though sometimes tedious for the students, are always polite and dignified affairs, thanks to the excellent deportment of your children. Day after day, they make my job far more like fun than work.
After writing many essays, we finished this first half of 8th grade English with an essay in which the students had to relate a passage from the ancient Chinese text, the Tao Te Ching, to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. I’ve glanced at some of the essays already, and they look like the polished and astute documents I’ve been accustomed to receiving from this class. On the cold winter days of vacation, I will warm myself up by reading a few of them each day. (The passage from Lao Tzu is below.)
Thank you for allowing me to be your children’s English teacher. I consider it an honor.
Best wishes to you and your families.


Hamilton Salsich
English Department

"To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle." --Walt Whitman


From the Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu:

Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty
Only because there is ugliness.
All can know good as good
Only because there is evil.

Living and dying create each other.
The difficult is born in the easy.
Long is defined by short, the high by the low.
Before and after go along with each other.

So the wise person lives comfortably
With both separateness and togetherness.
The wise person can act without effort
And teach without words.
Caring for things without possessing them,
He or she works, but not for rewards.
He or she competes, but not for results.
When the work is done, it is forgotten.
That is why it lasts forever.

Dear Parents of 9th graders,

As we finish the first 72 days of 9th grade English, I want to tell you how proud I am of all your children, and how lucky I feel to be one of their teachers. This year has truly been a blessing for me, and much of it is due to your kind, caring, and intelligent children. Each day I look forward to seeing my 16 high school students in class, for they always inspire me (and that’s definitely the right word) with their youthful wisdom and kindheartedness. They have opened my eyes countless times this year, perhaps far more than I have opened theirs.
The students finished their work with 7-paragraph essays which they wrote together in groups of four. The topic was “separation and unity”, and the essay required them to discuss the topic in many different connections, including a work of art, a poem, Great Expectations, and a piece of music. The groups also had to make a formal presentation of their work, including a performance of an original piece of music somehow related to the topic. Frankly, I was astonished by how well the groups functioned over the past 8 weeks — deliberating, planning, arguing, compromising, and coming up with creative solutions. I observed their poise, dignity, and maturity with great admiration. I had told them I expected the essays and presentations to be no less than perfect, and they came very close to that mark. We will continue with the collaboration work (on the same topic) in the second semester, and you will all receive an invitation for the final presentations. They should be something special, indeed.
I conclude with a poem (below) which I wrote on the evening of September 11, 2001. It expresses the gratitude I feel day after day after day.
Thanks for allowing me to teach your children. I consider it an honor.


Hamilton Salsich
English Department

"To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle." --Walt Whitman

(September 11, 2001)

These simple things
are still with us --
the openings of days,
the sunshine of friends sitting together,
the fullness of flowers in a vase.
We still know the slow dance
a day does as it ends,
and the pleasures of a starry sky.
We still have the ships of our lives
staying close in the sea of kindness,
and words floating among friends
like butterflies.
We still have the music of forgiveness
and the melodies that mercy makes.
We still have the sacredness
of a single moment.
We still have beauty
to tell us how to live.
We still have gratitude
like a good day dawning.

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