What Road to Take?
A poem, a lesson and an ah-ha moment
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost is a poem I use with students often. It is always fun to be the adult to bring this poem to new eyes and brains.
The last time I taught it I used a vocabulary QHT chart for sorting:
Q is for questions about words
H is for heard of it but do not know the meaning
T is for “I know this word so well I could teach it to someone else”.
We read and record words that they deem important. I usually explain I want them to record words that POP out to them. I use this is my own practice of reading.
Diverged is a word that always ends up on the chart from this poem.
There is also always talk about choices and the path the narrator was trying to decide upon. One of the girls spoke up about the connection to life in general and which paths people choose to take. The students said they thought a lot of people chose the wrong path. Some thought that certain paths were thrust upon people.
The writing the students did was quick but thoughtful after our brief discussion. It is much easier to make an extended response when a list of details about your big idea is either annotated on the poem in front of you or on a list you have created. We did both.
The students conclusions were that the narrator wanted to make his own choices which is why he took the road less traveled.
I invited them to take two poems with them: Mary Oliver’s Every Morning and Billy Collins’ Days.
We are all confronted with choices every day — too many most would argue. Some are trivial and some are life changing.
Do I stop and fill up my tire with air since the sensor went off and be late to work or wait and chance a flat?
Do I eat now or wait till I have more time?
How do I decide what town to move to next?
As humans, as teachers, as mothers, as spouses we have to make decisions all the time. There are I listen to the inner voices and other times I shut them out for my own good and peace of mind. I have been known to overthink situations in the past.
Why does this seem like such a difficult process? Making decisions every day should make it easier. Practice makes perfect, right? Fear can play a role in decision making. Many are afraid to make the “wrong” decision, inlcuding me. I always wonder “wrong” according to whom? Cultural norms have more of an influence than I think most of us realize.
The trajectory of my life took the path of a whole list of “shoulds” before I changed it.
The narrative I was told all my life never wavered: I should graduate high school with honors and I should go to college and I should get married and I should have kids and I should buy the biggest house I can afford and I should, I should , I should…until you reach a point in your life that you have achieved all the goals you thought that you should and it doesn’t match who you are as a person inside.
Then the real decision has to be made: stick to the status quo or make a leap.
When I turned 40, I made a leap. It came with consequences, I have no regrets. When you change paths and the people around you do not agree or understand there can be fear and anger. Sadly, I found little support overall.