The Teacher

The Teacher
By Leslie Pinckney Hill – 1880-1960

Lord, who am I to teach the way
To little children day by day,
So prone myself to go astray?

I teach them KNOWLEDGE, but I know
How faint they flicker and how low
The candles of my knowledge glow.

I teach them POWER to will and do,
But only now to learn anew
My own great weakness through and through.

I teach them LOVE for all mankind
And all God’s creatures, but I find
My love comes lagging far behind.

Lord, if their guide I still must be,
Oh let the little children see
The teacher leaning hard on Thee.

For the next two weeks, I will be teaching classes almost all day. I always teach a few classes each semester for the museum, but I will be teaching more classes over the next two weeks than I have taught since be been at the museum. I love to teach, and I’m not complaining, but I’d have liked to have spread all of these classes out over three or four weeks rather than crammed into two weeks. I won’t have to teach all of the classes, since the schedule I was given doesn’t take into account lunch breaks, so my coworkers will cover those classes. I will lead the majority of the classes with help from one of my colleagues but he will lead some of the other classes and I will assist, just to give me a break. When I was teaching full time, I was preparing and teaching thirty different classes a week. However I haven’t done that in seven years. I also focused mostly on teaching, but with these classes, I’m still responsible for all of my other work as well. One of the good things is that I will be teaching the same class over and over again. I should have the whole thing memorized after the first day. I’ll probably be teaching this class in my sleep.

About the Poet

Leslie Pinckney Hill was born in Lynchburg, Virginia on May 14, 1880. He attended public schools in East Orange, New Jersey before graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard University with a bachelor’s degree in 1903. He earned a master’s degree a year later.

Hill’s published works are the poetry collection The Wings of Oppression (The Stratford Co., 1921) and the play Toussaint L’ Ouverture, A Dynamic History (The Christopher Publishing House, 1928). Hill’s work has also been anthologized, most notably in James Weldon Johnson’s Book of American Negro Poetry (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922).

Johnson said of Hill’s verse: “[H]e writes in a quiet restrained scholarly tone, with a modicum of lyric ecstasy with never anything approaching abandon or a passionate break with decorum. His is philosophical rather than lyrical. All the poems in his first volume, ‘The Wings of Oppression’ (1921) are more or less in this vein. That this calmness of manner, however, does not imply lack of intensity is demonstrated by the serene power achieved in the sonnet ‘So Quietly.’”

In addition to being a poet and playwright, Hill was also an educator and community leader and organizer. He started his career as an instructor of English and Education at Tuskegee University. In 1907, he went to Manassas Industrial Institute, where he took a position as principal. Six years later, he took his final position in education at Cheyney Training School, which he expanded into Cheyney Training School for Teachers (now, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania), an accredited teachers’ college. After his retirement, the college bestowed him with the title President-Emeritus.

Hill died on February 15, 1960.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

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