From the Teacher’s Desk: A Golden Class

By Leonard Quilty

Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.

~ William James

On Tuesday, June 14, we had our last Collaborate (virtual) class in my grade seven Language Arts course. As the final exam was fast approaching, on that day I decided to review the use of figurative language in poetry. To assist in that process, I chose a poem by one of my favorite poets, Robert Frost, called “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”

Early on that Tuesday morning, I had randomly chosen Frost’s beautiful poem because I was impressed with the preciseness of the language and the poem’s overall message. In case you have yet to read it, here is Frost’s short poem.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day,

Nothing gold can stay.

After we had dutifully analyzed the poem in terms of literary devices such as alliteration and hyperbole, I spent some time with my students drawing out the theme. From our discussion, we agreed that Frost’s central idea about life is that everything in this life is temporal – there is a beginning and an end.

From Mother Nature’s brief hold on the “first green” of spring, to the perennial transition from “dawn to day,” we are all (both the elements of nature and human beings) subject to the inexorable march of time. To that end, I reminded my students of the importance of relishing the precious beauty around them: the love of family; the adornment of Mother Nature; and the rapture revealed (if we’re looking for it) in the present moment.

While the joy of summer holidays beckons for both students and teachers, that sense of euphoria (for me) is tempered somewhat by a tinge of melancholy. As I reflect on the past school year with this particular group of students, I know I will cherish the memories of our shared time together.

Those recollections include – the sheer enjoyment of watching their growth both as writers and as students with an increased appreciation of fine literature; the pure joy of writing alongside them as I attempted to provide a model for some of their weekly assignments (from writing free verse poetry to composing a “5 Card Flickr” paragraph); and the pleasant exchanges in Collaborate class as we talked about the power of reading great books.

Yes, indeed, I am saddened that our class has ended. But at the same time, there is comfort in knowing that, for all of us, new opportunities for growth (as writers and as students of life) await over the summer months and into the new school year.

Robert Frost was right – nothing gold can stay.

Leonard Quilty is a guidance counsellor with the Centre for Learning@Home in Okotoks, Alberta. He can be reached by e-mail at lquilty5@gmail.com

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