Archive for the ‘Poems about Teaching’ Category

naked truth

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

here’s all I knew:
you were a no-nonsense father
and fundamentalist preacher by trade

but that was enough to put me on alert
for our parent-teacher conference
since your son was a little scamp

I remember hearing your cleated shoes
deliberately snapping down the hallway
long before I saw you

even with that,
I wasn’t prepared for your greeting
as you marched into my room:
just “I suppose you know what you’re doing”

only “I suppose you know what you’re doing”
(was this a conference or an inquisition?)

I’ve replayed that moment many times
and either asked for an apology
or countered in my own boorish way:

“I was wondering exactly the same thing about you”
or “Now I see why Adam acts the way he does”

I don’t remember how I replied,
but it probably confirmed what you suspected,
that I was clueless, a fraud, an impostor,
running a classroom scam

and too many years have passed to recall
what went on during the rest of the conference,
but I realize now that you had every right
to wonder if I was up to the job

I was so unskilled
and so in need of guidance myself

and perhaps more damning
so uninterested
in helping someone like your son

“This is just to say”

Monday, September 21st, 2009

I have read
all the short stories
that were in
the anthology

and which
you probably
assigned
with good intentions

Forgive me for saying
there were mostly uninspiring
so superficial
and so out of date

Jackie Olds: state of the art

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

Exceptional ed teacher puts on her smile
As she bustles along another day.
Methods-class honed, she’s become versatile.

The faculty meeting takes quite awhile.
A tidy hall pass will start right away.
Exceptional ed teacher puts on her smile.

A sprint to her classroom, thinking what guile
Can get the kids to color maps her way.
Methods-class honed, she’s become versatile.

Homespun discipline is part of her style.
“We don’t need mouth muscles to work. Okay?”
Exceptional ed teacher puts on her smile.

Then time for testing a new boy named Lyle
To see if he scores at level 8A.
Methods-class honed, she’s become versatile.

1960 film presenting the Nile
Will continue through her last class, she prays.
Exceptional ed teacher puts on her smile.
Methods-class honed, she’s become versatile.

the business of study halls

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

during my first semester of teaching
I was assigned a study hall in the cafeteria
during the last period of the day, no less

think of dust motes and stale air,
think of antsy adolescents,
think of everyone juiced for the end of the day

there must have been 90 students
in that hornets’ nest

I did my best to keep everyone seated,
getting them to remain quiet . . .
well, that wasn’t going to happen,
at least not for very long

students who wanted a little quiet time,
who just needed some space,
were out of luck
unless they had library passes

how I put up with the study hall for five months
I’ll never know
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

as some critics see it,
American schools do one thing well:
they turn kids into obedient soldiers
who willingly follow schedules,
sit in rows, and stand in lines

for better or for worse, I did my part
by maintaining an orderly classroom,
but that first study hall was way beyond
what I could handle

for that assignment,
a battle-tested veteran was needed,
someone with a lot of combat duty,
someone who could take command
and see that the troops obeyed orders,
even in an extremely hostile setting