I love using this poem, If by Rudyard Kipling, in the classroom. We dissect this poem line by line and we don’t go on to the next line until we’ve talked through the one before. This is hard for a lot of the at-risk kids I usually work with but the eventually work their way through it. I have them what they think Kipling meant and then I have them talk about it as it compares to their lives. Then I ask them to write there own poem modeled on the poem.


Here’s a version of one my tries at this.


If you can learn that your value comes from being yourself,
not who the rest of the world thinks you should be

If you can recognize that no one person
sits in judgement of you

If you can lean into the understanding that difficult people too,
carry their burdens

If you can not cause pain to yourself, to others

If you can freely share your knowledge
knowing it will just increase your wealth
and manage your wealth so that the
seeking of it doesn’t manage you

If you can let go of hate and anger and fear
and all the useless emotions that hold you back
while at the same time filling yourself
and the world with love and laughter and compassion

If you can encourage dream following in everyone you meet
while nurturing dreams of your own

If you can let yourself believe
in yourself

There is nothing you cannot do.

–Susan Taylor Brown