Write… Edit… Publish: What’s In A Face + UBUNTU

So this is my last minute entry into the monthly blog hop over at Denise Covey's place. I'm just gonna improvise as I go along…


The prompt is – What's in a face?

What comes to your mind – a ghost story? a treatise on the scientific dimensions of the face? a poignant poem? a photo that captures the face? artwork? Whatever strikes you as inspiration, go for it! 

February 14 is Valentine's Day. You are welcome to incorporate this romantic day, but it is not mandatory! Just remember to keep your flash fiction or non-fiction to approx. 1,000 words.


SIGN UP – NOW, or by direct link when you post on your blog. Be sure to add 'WEP' to your post title, so people know at a glance that this is your entry for the challenge.

LEAVE A MESSAGE on the WEP blog, so people know your entry is up. 

PLEASE turn off Word Verification if you want comments!

VISIT other participants if possible, leaving a comment/feedback.


                                                   FEBRUARY 14 CHALLENGE - WHAT'S IN A FACE?

                                          WHAT'S IN A FACE?

At the beginning of this year, I was offered a part-time job teaching English at a school which is just up the road. The offer was good. I couldn’t resist. But of course it means that my entire schedule has been upset. I have to re-arrange my life (to a certain degree… not too bad…)

The start of a new year.

Face to face with eighteen Grade 8 learners.

(At this point, the words "tabula rasa" always come to me… imagine each learner has a mind that resembles a blank slate… just waiting for something to be inscribed on it…)

I’ve only known them for two weeks now. That’s only about 10 school days. But I’ve gotten to know some a bit better than others… there are always those who stand out for different reasons…

Lumko, who struggles to keep a straight face and focus on his work,  always mumbling about something or the other when he can’t get his own way, and who loves the victim role, refusing to face the music when he is caught in the act…

J.J with mischief written all over his face, he is one step ahead and will wipe every trace of evidence off the face of the earth… boisterous and energetic… if given half the chance, he will talk until he’s blue in the face…

 Samkelisiwe will cut off her nose to spite her face…  

Toni who has earned the title of being two-faced… nice to you one day and horrid the next day…

Anele has fallen victim to the humidity, fast asleep at his desk and wouldn’t know the answer if it hit him in the face…

Thando who is painfully shy yet eager to learn, who puts on a brave face to the world, and is too trusting, she takes everything at face value…

 Elizabeth, quiet and unassuming, who goes red in the face whenever she is asked a question…

Bheki whose mouth never has a rest, everytime you look at him, he is feeding his face…

These are just some of the "faces" of my grade 8 bunch. Do these diffferent “faces” define the learners? Isn’t this merely my perception/interpretation? How accurate is it?

I came across this poem which I thought fitted in with the WEP theme: What's In A Face as well as The Ubuntu Bloghop which starts today.

Please Hear What I'm Not Saying

Don't be fooled by me.
Don't be fooled by the face I wear
For I wear a mask, a thousand masks,
Masks that I'm afraid to take off
And none of them is me.

Pretending is an art that's second nature with me,
but don't be fooled,
for God's sake don't be fooled.
I give you the impression that I'm secure,
that all is sunny and unruffled with me,
within as well as without,
that confidence is my name and coolness my game,
that the water's calm and I'm in command
and that I need no one,
but don't believe me.

My surface may be smooth but
my surface is my mask,
ever-varying and ever-concealing.
Beneath lies no complacence.
Beneath lies confusion, and fear, and aloneness.
But I hide this. I don't want anybody to know it.
I panic at the thought of my weakness exposed.
That's why I frantically create a mask to hide behind,
a nonchalant sophisticated facade,
to help me pretend,
to shield me from the glance that knows.

But such a glance is precisely my salvation,
my only hope, and I know it.
That is, if it is followed by acceptance,
If it is followed by love.
It's the only thing that can liberate me from myself
from my own self-built prison walls
from the barriers that I so painstakingly erect.
It's the only thing that will assure me
of what I can't assure myself,
that I'm really worth something.
But I don't tell you this. I don't dare to. I'm afraid to.

I'm afraid you'll think less of me,
that you'll laugh, and your laugh would kill me.
I'm afraid that deep-down I'm nothing
and that you will see this and reject me.

So I play my game, my desperate, pretending game
With a façade of assurance without
And a trembling child within.
So begins the glittering but empty parade of Masks,
And my life becomes a front.
I tell you everything that's really nothing,
and nothing of what's everything,
of what's crying within me.
So when I'm going through my routine
do not be fooled by what I'm saying.
Please listen carefully and try to hear what I'm not saying,
what I'd like to be able to say,
what for survival I need to say,
but what I can't say.

I don't like hiding.
I don't like playing superficial phony games.
I want to stop playing them.
I want to be genuine and spontaneous and me
but you've got to help me.
You've got to hold out your hand
even when that's the last thing I seem to want.
Only you can wipe away from my eyes
the blank stare of the breathing dead.
Only you can call me into aliveness.
Each time you're kind, and gentle, and encouraging,
each time you try to understand because you really care,
my heart begins to grow wings —
very small wings,
but wings!

With your power to touch me into feeling
you can breathe life into me.
I want you to know that.
I want you to know how important you are to me,
how you can be a creator–an honest-to-God creator —
of the person that is me
if you choose to.
You alone can break down the wall behind which I tremble,
you alone can remove my mask,
you alone can release me from the shadow-world of panic,
from my lonely prison,
if you choose to.
Please choose to.

Do not pass me by.
It will not be easy for you.
A long conviction of worthlessness builds strong walls.
The nearer you approach me
the blinder I may strike back.
It's irrational, but despite what the books may say about man
often I am irrational.
I fight against the very thing I cry out for.
But I am told that love is stronger than strong walls
and in this lies my hope.
Please try to beat down those walls
with firm hands but with gentle hands
for a child is very sensitive.

Who am I, you may wonder?
I am someone you know very well.
For I am every man you meet
and I am every woman you meet.

I am you.

       By Charles C. Finn

To enjoy more of Charles’s poems, visit www.poetrybycharlescfinn.com

This person appears to be struggling with some deep, unnamed, anxiety or insecurities. He/she puts on masks, and plays the game with cool confidence, while in reality he/she is hurting inside, and desperately yearning for real human contact.

We all do it, hide parts of who we are. To do that, we put on an act that we believe shows us as a better person than we really are.

Why do we go to these lengths? The reasons are many, but the greatest reason is that we are afraid we are not good enough to be accepted for who we are.

Even when we admit that we are all guilty of wearing masks, we have a hard time removing them and trusting that we are OK.

Many of us can relate to the idea that we would really like to be fully transparent, clearly living out who we are. But that means removing the masks, which is very difficult. It means being prepared to "put yourself out there…" and embracing vulnerability. Very difficult. Vulnerability gives you a sense of freedom. I read an article on why it’s good to be vulnerable. It's food for thought…

Please go here to read the article: Tiny Buddha's article On Being Vulnerable.

There are thousands of people out there, hiding behind their maks… yet each one has the same basic need… the need to belong… to be part of something… for acceptance… acknowledgement… human connection… just to know that someone cares…

We tend to judge people by what we see, especially if we don't know them well. But you'll never know what challenges/hardships the next person has to endure… never know the hand that has been dealt to him… the cross he has to carry… the curve balls thrown his way… never know his deepest hurt, deepest fear, deepest happiness…

So you still have time to participate in the bloghop which runs from today until Friday 21st February. Want more information? Go HERE





  1. Linda K on February 18, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    An interesting discussion of the complexities of the face we show the world. Thanks for sharing the poem.

  2. Julie K Pick on February 18, 2014 at 7:54 pm

    Congrats on your new teaching job! It really sounds like a challenge, and your students are lucky to have you. Happy third blogoversary! I love your Ubuntu selection. It's so true how we all wear different masks in one way or another. Thanks for hosting this wonderful bloghop, Michelle!

  3. Shelly on February 18, 2014 at 8:23 pm

    They say the first impressions of someone are usually accurate.

  4. Alex J. Cavanaugh on February 18, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    I am you – wow, that's powerful.

    Congratulations on the teaching job! Lots of new faces to learn.

  5. Denise on February 18, 2014 at 10:19 pm

    Hey Michelle. Congratulations on the teaching job. Every one of those children is unique, yet have the same desires ~ to be loved and accepted. Being a teacher is one of the highest callings, I believe, as we hold lives in our hands. Yes, it takes time, but so rewarding. I wish you the very best.

    Love that you slipped in a link to WEP too. It worked so well. Yes, all those masks…and that poem and poet. Thanks for introducing him. Wonderful. I’m going to read some more.

    It’s going to be fun reading the Ubuntu entries.


  6. Damaria Senne on February 18, 2014 at 11:04 pm

    The poem feels very brave to me. It made me think about masks and how hard we try to be authentic, and yet, sometimes "being authentic" can also be a mask.  Powerful poem.

  7. Shah Wharton on February 19, 2014 at 5:45 am

    We once did personality tests at University, and the lecturer took them home to analyse our answers. When she came back wit a sheet with her assessments of our answers I watched as the class was amazed at how accurate her assessments were. Then she said to show our peers those assessments and guest what? They were all exactly the same. This is why palm readers etc. can so easily con us. 

    Loved your post, a great combination of messages to bring the overarching message of Ubuntu. X

    PS: Congrats on the job 🙂 

  8. Sally on February 19, 2014 at 9:18 am

    An interesting piece, the snippets you give of the children you are teaching shows an insight that not many people will get.  I wonder whether they will grow up with those masks still in place or acquire more masks depending on the situations they find themselves in.

  9. Hilary on February 19, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    Hi Michelle – I loved the students' faces storyline .. and what fun to be given the opportunity of teaching them … brought back so many African faces from my past, when I lived there … 

    The mirror – the poem is "I am you" … so so true … we all need to accept everyone and be on their side, as with the earth … 

    Cheers to you and enjoy the kids and the school – Hilary

  10. Julie Flanders on February 19, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    Congratulations on your new job! I loved reading about all the faces of your learners and the stories behind them. I think these kids will be lucky to have your in their lives.

    Congrats to on the anniversary! Here's to many more great years of blogging for you. 

  11. shell flower on February 19, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    I love how you characterize the children in your class and managed to get the face theme into each one. All those personalities must make for an interesting class. Very cool that you are teaching English. Good luck! I loved the poem, as well. So many of us fake it to the point we don't even know we are doing it anymore.

  12. Kim Van Sickler on February 19, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    Wow. Lots of characters in that class that you've already zeroed in on in such a short time. Your powers of observation are well honed! Good luck balancing the new job with writing.

  13. Misha on February 19, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    I love that poem. It reminds me of the saying that you should always be kind with other people, because everyone's struggling with something you can't understand.

  14. L. Diane Wolfe on February 19, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    That's a lot of different faces, each one hiding more than what is obvious.

  15. Mary Pax on February 19, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    I enjoyed all the faces you showed in your story of the children. That was lovely.

    And I was just thinking recently about how we're quick to judge people w/o knowing their real struggles. As individuals we're guilty and as a society we're very guilty. I don't know why some people insist we wear masks. It's not always the wearer that puts it there. Good topic.

    Hope you're having a good wee, Michelle.

  16. Michael Di Gesu on February 20, 2014 at 3:57 am

    Hi, Michelle,

    I really enjoyed your faces piece. Children are such amazing subject. At that age they are who they REALLY are. The masks haven't started to hide their trues selves yet.

    Fantastic subject. Humans are complex and wear many masks, mainly to protect themselves. Many are hurt when they where their hearts on their sleeves. This is when our first masks are forged. As we mature and enter the work force. More are conceived.

    Thanks for giving us such an intersting topic, Michelle and CONGRATS on the job…

    Have you been able to work on that special project? Another nudge… lol.

  17. tammy theriault on February 20, 2014 at 6:10 am

    you go girl! bring it!

  18. Nilanjana Bose on February 20, 2014 at 10:14 am



    Here from WEP, and liked your take on the face theme.  Children's faces are perhaps the most transparent, the least number of masks to take off.  Congratulations on the new teaching job and the anniversary.  Ubuntu is an amazing word.
    Best wishes.

  19. Mary Aalgaard on February 20, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    Great poem and commentary. I also felt a connection to that article. We need to be vulnerable to be real, and when we are, others are drawn to us and feel more comfortable about themselves. (I'm still in transit as I wait for my new website to be ready, so I did not participate.)

  20. L.G. Keltner on February 20, 2014 at 9:00 pm

    I love the poem!  I can definitely relate to it.

    My piece for the Ubuntu Bloghop is now up! 

  21. PK Hrezo on February 20, 2014 at 11:35 pm

    Michelle, big congrats sistah! And geez I'm sorry I missed the blog hop. Such a great cause. I just watched the Winnie Mendella movie so they're fresh in my mind right now. What a story she has. 

    Isn't it funny how we think we have to be so strong and unmoved by things, yet our vulnerability is what connects us to others. I love when people truly open up and let others in. When all masks are off.

    Anyway, I hope the blog hop was lots of fun and I"ve already read some touching entries. Enjoy! 

  22. M. J. Joachim on February 21, 2014 at 12:37 am

    This poem speaks to and for so many people. Yes, we all carry ourselves as we must, but so many people are hurting, afraid to get hurt again. So many people pretend to be decent, honest and kind, when behind closed doors they terrorize their families. So many people claim religion as their shield, proof they are holier than thou…and so many people reach out to others – some teach, others parent, some are simply friends. Truly, there is much to think about in this post. Thank you.

    MJ, <a href = "http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com">A to Z Challenge Co-Host </a>
    <a href = "http://mjjoachim.blogspot.com">Writing Tips</a>
    <a href = "http://effectivelyhuman.blogspot.com"&gt; Effectively Human</a>
    <a href = "http://lotsofcrochetstitches.blogspot.com"&gt; Lots of Crochet Stitches</a>


  23. Elise Fallson on February 21, 2014 at 8:12 am

    Wonderful poem, a lot of which I can relate to. And congratulations on your teaching position, I'm sure your students will supply you will lots of stories and anecdotes. It's always interesting to see things through the eyes of children, they can teach us a lot about ourselves without even trying. 🙂

  24. Crystal Collier on February 21, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    Happy 3 years blogoversary! I've been reading around the blogosphere and loving everyone's responses in the hop. What a great event! Love that poem–even blogged about masks a while back… 

  25. Al Diaz on February 22, 2014 at 1:43 am

    That's such an amazing poem. It echoes in my heart really strong. Congratulations on your blogoversary and on that job, Michelle! 

  26. Leslie Rose on February 22, 2014 at 4:27 am

    Wow, the poem really moved me. Thank you so much for sharing it. Happy blogoversary, Michelle.

  27. Vidya Sury on February 22, 2014 at 5:11 am

    What a beautiful poem, Michelle! 🙂

    Congratulations on your new position! Your students will love you!

    So happy to participate in the blog hop!

    And happy blog birthday again!

  28. susan on February 22, 2014 at 7:14 am

    Lovely post Michelle thank you. Ubuntu – so aptly brought into the world by Archbishop Tutu. I am you, you are me .. and so beautifully written by Charles C. Finn. Your description of your pupils highlights this so effectively.

  29. Jemi Fraser on February 22, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    Great post Michelle. Our students faces tell us so much! I hope you enjoy your time with them – grade 8 is so much fun! I'm a little jealous of the # 18 though – the smallest class I've ever taught is 28 kids 🙂 Thanks again for the blog hop – it's been great!

  30. Carol Kilgore on February 22, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    I've read a few of the UBUNTU posts, and they were all great. Yours is, too. I love this poem!

    And congrats on your teaching job. You'll come to love all those little faces!

  31. Michelle Wallace on February 23, 2014 at 11:53 am



  32. WriterlySam on February 24, 2014 at 6:15 am

    Powerfully insightful poetry! I can't thank you enough for exposing me to this incredible ideal–it has left an indelible mark that I'll always treasure:) Cheers to you & Ubuntu!

    <a href="http://writerlysam.com/2014/02/21/spirit-of-the-blue-swallow/">Ubuntu Spirit of the Blue Swallow</a> 

  33. Donna Hole on March 1, 2014 at 6:09 am

    Teaching is a hard job, and I hope a rewarding one. So many new faces and blank slates to appeal to. This was a unique take on both themes.


  34. Anna Nordeman on March 1, 2014 at 11:01 am

    March first, 2014
    Dear Michelle,
    What a wonderful post about faces! I love the descripstions of your pupils!
    I spent 35 days student-teaching at a school for 7th to 9th-graders (ages 13 to 15-years old) this fall and now I am writing a paper about school curiculum.
    You have to learn names and faces quickly if you are going to succeed as a teacher. So the ability to be able to attach names and descriptions to faces is important to me. I don’t know why I did not think about it for this excerise.
    Lovely poem too.
    Best wishes,

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