Mice and Men

One of my favorite poems is Robert Burns’ “To a Mouse.” It’s a really sympathetic poem about a mouse who has planned for winter by building a snug little house. The speaker is a farmer who has plowed through the mouse’s nest, destroying it, and it’s too late in the year for the mouse to build another one. So, despite the mouse’s careful preparation, he is still left out in the cold for the winter. The poem is timeless and classic, not because it’s a sad animal tale, but because Burns connects himself with the mouse in the last couple of stanzas with his famous summary, “The greatest plans of mice and men often go awry/and leave us not but grief and pain for promised joy.”

As my careful planning for the future is often thwarted by circumstances beyond my control, I really bonded with this poem. The poet doesn’t offer any sort of solution, but he is very sympathetic to both mice and people who are left wanting despite their best efforts.

Now this post is not as sad as it could be, but I’ve been thinking about Burns’ little mouse for the past couple of days as we’ve gone back to school for our work days. I vowed at the beginning of the summer to use my time off productively so that I would be organized and prepared for the new year. And I did work, pretty steadily, all summer.

Yet, here I am, one week and counting from the first day of school, in panic mode. My room is not ready, my lesson plans are not finalized, I need to choose reading lists and order books, and I have school supplies strewn across my floor. There are parent letters to write, a classroom webpage to build, worksheets to create, and meetings to attend.

This is the time of year that I love to hate. Right now there seems to be more to do than I can possibly accomplish, and the hours of the day race by. But I know that somehow it will all be finished on time, and that when my room fills up with hopeful little faces, I will know what to do with them. And even if I don’t, I know they can’t tell when I’m bluffing.

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8 responses to “Mice and Men

  1. I didn’t realize that quote came from a Burns poem…thanks!

    I am SO glad that I don’t have to go through what you do each summer…my students are always there and the work is always the same…pretty easy at this stage of my teaching career.

    However, I also don’t have the excitement of the first day of school bells ringing, the excited faces before me, new school supplies to corral in my room, etc. All the anticipation of the beginning of a new year is yours, not mine. Enjoy it!

    May your influence among your peers be courageous, among your students, wise, and with parents, gracious. Have a good year!

  2. “Awry” is one of those words I’ve always read and never spoken. Or maybe I did once, to an eruption of laughter at however I’d said it. Is it a-RIE or AHree?

    I like reading poetry. Thanks for posting about it!

  3. I think it’s pronounced a-RIE (rhymes with pie).

    You should all definitely follow the link and read the poem in its entirety.

  4. Oh, at first I thought this post would be about John Steinbeck.

    It seems to me that no matter how short or long the to-do list, the hours of the day always slip away. And it does somehow all get done… it’s a mystery to me!

  5. Thanks for the explanation. Now I can again insert awry into my everyday vocabulary, no longer worried what others might think. I’m a better woman.

    And I did read the poem, though I wished I could have had a real Scot read me the Scottish version.

  6. Yay comments on Lindsey’s blog 🙂 I tried to comment last night but it wouldn’t work for some reason. Panic mode drove me to give up half of one of my precious free days left to go to school to work on decorations for four hours yesterday. Your list stresses me out! I start my third “new teacher” training tomorrow. Yuck. At least I will get to meet the other new folks at Hamilton. 🙂 Good luck with all your preparations. It will turn out great!

  7. By the way, I tagged you. Read my blog and you will see what I mean.

  8. COMMENTS!

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