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Head's Blog: Lessons from Homer's Journey to Ithaka

Allison D. Webster
DCD’s 5th grade is presently captivated by melodic sirens, menacing cyclopes, and the wrath of Poseidon as they prepare for their story-telling performance of the Odyssey coming up shortly. What better reading for the end of the year than Homer’s Odyssey, an epic story of challenges, relationships, and growth? 

A school year is just about as heroic as Homer’s journey to Ithaka when one considers all the wonders and challenges a child experiences in ten short months. During this end-of-year time when all of us invest energy reflecting and taking stock of outcomes, it is also a good moment to admire the journey each student will complete this year. The small victories along the way are too innumerable to list: the first moments of decoding “lively letters;” a moment of epiphany when understanding the relationship between fractions and decimals; a brave moment on stage or on the field when classmates needed you to come through, and you did – or didn’t; the moment an 8th grader learned they are headed to their top choice school.
 
Each student’s year has been filled with personal accomplishments and many great outcomes. Now that “Ithaka” is on the horizon, and the school year is near an end, let’s also celebrate the fortitude and resilience that was a part of each child’s journey. I’m so grateful to have been a part of each child’s journey this year, and for the amazing “crew” that is DCD’s teachers and community.
 
This poem is a wonderful way to think about the many journeys our children have taken and will take in the months and years ahead. 
 
Ithaka, by C.P. Cavefy  
 
As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
 
Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations

to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.
 
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
 
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
 
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean. 


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