The reluctant Christmas poet


The Reluctant Christmas Poet


As you read this article, students and teachers will be off enjoying their first full day of vacation. It seems mere hours when I wrote about the start of the school year and now we approach the halfway point in the year.

The rest, relaxation, and mirth are well-earned. Students will have completed benchmark exams, End-of-Course tests, and a bevy of projects. Teachers will settle down for some much needed time with their own families.

But did you know one of the most loved Christmas stories, “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” was a work the author never really liked? Clement C. Moore was a scholar and studied the classical languages, Greek, Hebrew, and Latin and wrote many well-received compositions and editorials in the scholarly arena.

In fact, the authorship of the poem remained unknown for 22 years. You see, Mr. Moore wrote the poem along with many others for his children when he was 43 years old and only claimed authorship at 65.

Life can be funny sometimes, can’t it? The accolades we desire are often deflected from what we want and ironically end being just what we need. Take public school teachers or public schools in general.

Unlike two generations ago when education was among the most noble of professions, now it suffers from the derision of scholars, politicians, and talking heads…who have few sensible solutions themselves. But these “called” teachers daily put their best on the line for students and parents often suspicious of the “system.”

Education is facing a shortage of qualified teachers in the imminent future. And why should anyone choose such a profession? Long hours, editorial ridicule, and political micro- and hyper-management!

But in spite of such long odds, there are those who remain committed to provide a quality education for all students regardless of socioeconomic status or disability. These people, like Clement Moore, may never receive the accolades for scholastic excellence but they receive something far better—the chance to make a lasting impression in the lives of their children.

I think back to my “calling” in education…some near 35 years ago. I never planned to be a teacher or an educator. I was a history and religious studies major with intentions of teaching in middle eastern history. I never took a single education class throughout my undergraduate program and not even during my first year of my master’s degree. 

But the call to teach public school began to stir my bones…and I shifted to an MAT in history. Now 35 years later I have a marvelous tapestry of successes, torn corners of failures, and radiant colors of now two generations of students’ experiences. And I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Clement Moore thought his poem too simplistic; however, his poem became the literary personification of Santa Claus and, lest we forget, his eight tiny reindeer and the sleigh. I am sure this poem remains a favorite across generations as well it should.

So in keeping with the beautiful ending of Clement Moore, I want to wish each of you the following: 

“Happy Christmas to All, and to All a Good Night!”


(Dr. David O’Shields is superintendent of Laurens County School District 56.)

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