Puff the Magic Dragon

When I was in pre-school, we listened to the song “Puff the Magic Dragon” frequently. Recorded by the folk trio Peter, Paul, and Mary, the song tells the story of a boy and his imaginary dragon. Like many children’s songs and books, it’s pretty clear that this one was written by an adult who’s experiencing some nostalgia or perhaps regret. The last verses are…

A dragon lives forever but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys.
One grey night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more
And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.

Puff the Magic Dragon...

His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain,
Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.
Without his life-long friend, Puff could not be brave,
So Puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave.

It’s those last two lines that I’ve been thinking about. Jackie helps Puff to be what he is. It’s not that Jackie makes Puff brave, but he reveals him for the mighty dragon that he is.

Even as a kid, I remember thinking that this song was awful sad. But when I got the song stuck in my head the other day I wondered if another Jackie or Julie or Simon comes along for Puff. Someone else who helps him feel like the brave dragon he is.

You’ve likely surmised that I’m thinking about more than just a song from pre-school. My experience in teaching has been that I’ve needed people to help me realize who I am and the kind of teacher I am. It’s not that those people tell me who I am, but that they often have the insight to see things that I miss or am reluctant to name. So when those people have moved on or when I’ve moved on, there’s always a moment of panic in which I’m afraid that I won’t be able to be brave without them.

But just when I’m contemplating crawling back into the cave, someone shows up with strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff…


4 thoughts on “Puff the Magic Dragon

  1. Meredith,
    Lately I’ve been thinking about my role in my school and how I can continue to grow as a learner while also mentoring other teachers. I don’t have a mentor in my school anymore, since I am now one of the “old” teachers. I miss having someone to help me see who I am as a teacher; I don’t always see things realistically as I am extremely hard on myself.

    Thank you for a great post!

  2. Thanks for the comment, Mindi.

    There’s a great passage in Parker Palmer’s The Courage to Teach where he talks about the time when he waited around for his next mentor to come, only to realize that the time had come for him to be the mentor. I don’t think mentoring has to be exclusively about age though. I imagine digital tech, for example, might be a place where a younger teacher could mentor an older teacher. I also find that some mentoring relationships grow into friendships where the push to learn and to see things about oneself becomes more mutual.

  3. Meredith,
    I don’t even to wait until they leave to panic; I worry about the loss of those wonderful people even when there’s no indication they are leaving!

    I loved Puff when I was young, too. That painful love always got to me. Still does. But it is also what reminds me I will always seek those meaningful professional relationships because they feed me in my quest to be an authentic teacher and person.


  4. This is a wonderfully vulnerable and transparent post, Meredith. If one were to write an updated version of this song – beginning with what happens after Puff sadly slips back into his cave – I wonder what that story would be? Would Puff stay in the safety of his cave, timid and hesitant? Or would Puff venture forth, finally realizing that he is, indeed, a mighty dragon despite the lack of reassurance? I’d like to think the second option would be the way it plays out. Start writing those verses . . .

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