Throwback Talking Circle

Posted on January 16, 2017


I learned to have my class discuss ideas in the form of Talking Circle from an Indigenous elder,  Joseph Many Horses. From him I learned the basic rules: “Be truthful. Speak from the heart.” When it is time for Talking Circle, we pull our desks into a circle with no distractions in front of us. We may use a paper and pen for notes, but we must give our FULL ATTENTION to EVERY speaker.

In 1998, my eleventh grade American Literature class discussed the literature of the Transcendentalists, Emerson and Thoreau, and the connections they made between the authors’ thinking and their own. As I read their reflections on the activity afterward, I collected quotes from the students and assembled them into a poem to give back to them. I was touched by their responses, and I wanted them to see how beautiful they were. Reading it nineteen years later, I feel proud of these Maples from the past, and grateful to have been their teacher. Compassion and community remain the heart of my teaching.


Talking Circle: One of the Deepest, Coolest Things I’ve Done In School

We’re all alike.

I have respect for you, my classmates,

because you spoke from the heart.

I was wrong about you.

There is more to you than I thought.


I see your softer side.

Your feelings are my feelings.

It is hard to express myself,

but easier when we all share.

I am surprised.

I could open up to you.

I love your stories.


Like Thoreau,

Emerson reached into my heart.

He told me,

“To be great is to be misunderstood.”

He writes from the heart.


I learned more about myself in forty-five minutes

than I ever thought was possible.

I need to live each day to the fullest.

I shouldn’t take things for granted.

Being truthful and speaking from the heart is important.


I miss living in the country.

I had forgotten how much I missed nature.

I’m not the only one to sit in the woods

and connect to a higher power.


Nature’s beauty sprouts from simplicity.

I am a speck of glitter in a beautiful world.

I am at peace with myself.


When I left class yesterday,

I couldn’t stop thinking about what happened

in the Talking Circle.



we created beauty.


10 December 1998


This is a found poem from the reflections of ms. lisa eddy’s American Literature Experience class, 3rd period, 1998-99.