As we express our gratitude to and for teachers around the U.S. this National Teacher Appreciation week, we are inspired to share Hakim Bellamy’s searing tribute to those who stand “between pass…and future”….

You stand,
somewhere between
who they are
and what they could be.

Not an obstacle.
Quite the contrary,
but they can’t tell.

Their only hint
is the way you stand.

You appear ready to fight
and dammit if sometimes…
they do not know it is for them.

You are hands down
while they are hands up
in front of you.

You take their best shot
and every ‘morrow
come back for more
please.

You are the space between
the end of every question
and good manners,

between a demand
and a smile,

between please and thank you,

between boredom
and the bathroom,

between bathroom and sh…
‘tuff we let pass for education in this country.

You stand between past
and fail,

between path
and learn

between pass
and future.

You stood between Dr. Maya Angelou
and her degree.

Her traumatic muteness at 8
and her ability to speak at 13.

Between Anne Sullivan
and Helen Keller’s ability to speak what she sees.

You stand between every single student
and their “Story of Me.”

Stood with Mary Duncan in Nashville, Tennessee,
between a 4th grade Oprah Winfrey
and THE “Oprah.”

And in 1989 you stood on her show
as she said thank you.

I thank you
for standing between the spike
and the punch bowl,

between the wallflower
and the wall,

between the two kids
getting a little too Lambada on the dance floor,

between the black board
and the clean slate,

between a paycheck
and a living,

between social promotion
and social skills,

between high stakes testing
and a high stakes life.

You stand
with a backpack

more camouflage
than campus.

Always at attention
even in a room full of pupils that lack it.

You are a frontline
of lesson plans waving sayonara from flagpoles
at half mast.

You are marching orders
that have accepted
to stand.

Between our lil’ angels
and the gunmen who have come
to give them wings.

Between neck
and bedroom closet.

Between bully
and believer.

You stand between a sensible work week
and beyond the call of duty,

between the drugs
and our children’s self-esteem,

between banned books
and burnt out,

and sometimes…
between the bar
and the weekend you desperately needed

like, like two days ago, already!

You are a Monday through Friday
stand-in parent for ME,
and for every moment you surrogate life
I am away on my knees
begging for you
and my child
to succeed.

For as long
as you’ve been on your feet for me,
I will stand for you.


Appreciation is Generative
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Hakim Bellamy

Hakim Bellamy

About the author
The inaugural poet laureate of Albuquerque, Hakim Bellamy is also a W. K. Kellogg Foundation Fellow and a Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow. A National Poetry Slam Champion, Bellamy’s first collection of poems, Swear, was awarded the Tillie Olsen Award for Creative Writing from the Working Class Studies Association. A musician, actor, educator, television host and two time National Poetry Slam Champion, Bellamy has facilitated writing workshops and performances in schools, prisons, hospitals, community and senior centers in at least five countries. To learn more about Hakim, visit beyondpoetryink.com.