Table of Contents

  • Free Editorial

    Just Math

    By the editors of Rethinking Schools
  • Free Whose Community Is This?

    Mathematics of neighborhood displacement

    By Eric (Rico) Gutstein

    Students use advanced math to study gentrification, displacement, and foreclosure in their neighborhood.

  • Transparency of Water

    A workshop on math, water, and justice

    By Selene Gonzalez-Carillo, Martha Merson

    Community educators bring math into an intergenerational exploration of the environmental, political, and economic issues surrounding bottled versus tap water.

  • Free Beyond Marbles

    Percent change and social justice

    By Flannery Denny

    Middle school students analyze a classroom full of social justice issues, armed with their understanding of percent change.

  • Other Features
  • Free Responding to Tragedy

    2nd graders reach out to the Sikh community

    By Dale Weiss

    When a racist attack kills members of a local Sikh temple, a 2nd-grade teacher involves her students in a journey of connection and solidarity.

  • An Unfortunate Misunderstanding

    Saga of a promising new charter

    By Grace Gonzales

    Helping create an independent charter school seems like a dream job. But teachers, parents, and children soon confront all-too-familiar charter school woes.

  • Creative Conflict

    Collaborative playwriting

    By Kathleen Melville

    A high school drama teacher searches for ways to encourage students to write about their lives without replicating stereotypes.

  • “Hey, Mom, I Forgive You”

    Teaching the forgiveness poem

    By Linda Christensen

    An English teacher builds community as her students write a poem about forgiving or not forgiving. She starts with her own story.

  • A Pure Medley

    Poetry By Adeline Nieto
  • Free Paradise Lost

    Introducing students to climate change through story

    By Brady Bennon

    The film Paradise Lost - about the rising ocean that threatens Kiribati - proves an evocative introduction to a unit on climate change.

  • Departments Free
    Action Education
  • Seattle Test Boycott: Our Destination Is Not on the MAP

    By Jesse Hagopian
  • Good Stuff
  • Encounters

    By Herb Kohl
  • Resources
  • Our picks for books, videos, websites, and other social justice education resources.

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“Hey, Mom, I Forgive You”

Teaching the forgiveness poem
“Hey, Mom, I Forgive You”
Bec Young

I was 13 when my father died. When I was in high school, my mother started dating other men. I resented this for many reasons. Partly, I suppose I wanted her to stay true to the memory of my father, whom I loved madly. But I also missed her; she was absent from my life during that time. My sisters and brother were grown, so our family consisted of Mom and me. She no longer cooked dinner. She drank more. She stayed out late. I was lonely and angry and hurt. Many years later, I realized that she was still a young woman in her mid-40s. She wasn't ready to be a widow for life, and there were few eligible prospects in our small town.

Teenagers often harbor resentment as well as love for their parents. Theirs is an age of rebellion and separation. During the last 40 years, I've listened as my students stormed in anger at their parents, but I've also witnessed their love and loyalty. As a daughter who has forgiven her mother, and as the mother of two daughters who I hope will forgive me all of my mistakes, I find the topic of forgiveness essentialand a recurring theme in literature and history.

As students grow into adulthood, they need to see their parents as people as well as family members. Sometimes understanding the cultural and social pressures that shaped their parents helps them begin to resolve some of the issues that divide them from the significant adults in their lives. For some students the pain is still too close and too fresh to forgive. Both responses are legitimate.

The forgiveness poem is a yearly staple in my classes. I use it when I teach Sherman Alexie's Smoke Signals in junior English, but it pairs well with many novels or historical periods. In Smoke Signals, Victor, the main character, struggles because his alcoholic father left the reservation, abandoning Victor and his mother. After his father's death, Victor discovers the reason his father left, as well as his father's guilt and pain.

At the end of the play, Alexie uses part of a Dick Lourie poem, Forgiving Our Fathers, as Victor's friend Thomas mourns the death of Victor's father, Arnold, as well as his own:

Do we forgive our fathers for leaving us too often or
forever when we were little?
Maybe for scaring us with unexpected rage
or making us nervous because there seemed
never to be any rage there at all

Do we forgive our fathers for marrying
or not marrying our mothers
For divorcing or not divorcing our mothers?
And shall we forgive them for their excesses
of warmth or coldness?

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