Friday, October 30, 2009

Daniel and Puff...

We were reading a story at the dinner table the other night about Daniel and the Lion's Den and the king and the "seal" on his ring... and we got into a discussion of sealing wax.  Not a commonly used item these days.  I brought up the lyrics to Puff the Magic DragonAnd brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff....
      Did you know the lyrics for Puff were based on a 1959 poem by Leonard Lipton, a student at Cornell.  He was inspired by a poem called "Custard the Dragon" by Ogden Nash (A realio, trulio little pet dragon)... Lipton was 19-years-old.  He just happened to be friends of Peter Yarrow's housemate and he typed the poem on Peter Yarrow's typewriter to "get the poem out of his head."  And the rest they say is "history"... Peter Yarrow gave him credit for writing the lyrics... 

     Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
     And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called honah lee,
     Little Jackie Paper loved that rascal puff,
    And brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff. 

     The point?  During our discussion, my wife said, "Every teacher should listen to that song each morning..."  She was right.  What are we doing to preserve the childhoods of children?  What's our role in that preservation?

     A dragon lives forever but not so little boys
     Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys.
     One grey night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more
     And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.

     I'm reminded of one of my mentors, Shelley Harwayne, and her wonderful book Writing Through Childhood.  Funny that a song can remind you of a mentor!  In her book, Shelley talks a lot about preserving the writing lives of children.  It's a book I'm going to revisit... On page 4, she writes, "Inviting elementary students to write in unadulterated ways does more in a school than teach children an important means of communication.  One of the fringe benefits of hosting a writing workshop for young people is the opportunity to see the world through their wide eyes.  I've often thought that this is a real perk for teachers, reminding them what a privilege and a gift it is to spend so much time with young people."
     So... what gifts will you bring your students this week... to help preserve their childhoods?


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