Monthly Archives: June 2013

#44: Sure, I Will Marry You


Sure, I Will Marry You

Sure, I’ll marry you, if you’d like.
That’s what I told a student of mine
who sent me this message out of the blue
fifteen years or better after he’d been
in my classroom reading some Shakespeare,
saying he had asked his girlfriend,
who was also a student of mine
fifteen years ago, to get hitched,
and for some reason, they thought
their high school English teacher
would be the perfect guy for the job.
Will you marry us, he said,
and I said, sure, I will marry you.
I was honored and happy.
I didn’t have a certificate to marry anyone
so I got on the internet and
in five minutes I was ordained
as a minister in the Universal Life Church.
I was pretty pleased with myself.
I’m not religious any more
but the Universal Life Church makes
no demand and sets no standard
for any particular flavor or level
of religiosity, no dogma to follow,
inclusive of even the Agnostic and Atheist.
Well, that’s my kind of church, I thought,
as I ordered up my legal certificate
to certify my reverential self to the State
and to the world.
I told my former students
that I wouldn’t be talking about Jesus
and they were all right by that.
Despite my lack of religion,
despite the fact that it’s probably
been thirty years since I last said a prayer,
I think of myself, still, in spiritual terms,
think there is a big difference between
spirituality and religion, and find much
in the world and in life to be reverential
and even worshipful about. So
I find myself pretty darn excited now
to be a man of the cloth, of some kind of cloth;
hell yeah, I’m now a reverend, and if you ask me
to marry you or bury you or make a blessing
of some kind, I’ll do my level best
to bring some thought, some levity,
some seriousness, and gobs of respect
to the occasion, because that’s what you deserve.
That’s what we all deserve.

Reverend Michael Anthony Jarmer

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Filed under Culture, Poetry, Religion, Self Reflection, Teaching

#43: The Summertime Blues Is A Real Thing


The Summer Time Blues Is A Real Thing

I’m here to tell you that
the Summertime Blues is a real thing.
And I’m not talking about the silly song
about the kid who couldn’t work late or can’t use
the damn car and is too young to vote,
no, I’m talking about the summertime blues
that hits you, the middle aged teacher,
every summer, sooner and sooner every year,
and you have to hit it back, beat it away with a stick.
It’s easy enough to predict and diagnose,
difficult but not impossible (as the song suggests)
to cure, but nevertheless a mighty struggle.
For nine months out of the year
your middle name is Busy and there is
never enough time in the day–
then comes June and suddenly you’ve got
nothing but time–and you understand
why teachers work summer jobs and it’s
rarely if ever about the money, but about the
danger of nothing but time, unstructured time.
And if money was no object, it would be easy to
structure all of that time so as to guarantee
never a dull summer moment.  But money
IS actually an object, and unstructured
time abounds, and you think it is a great gift horse
–until it bites you in the nose or kicks you
in the ass.

You now have an abundance of time
to obsess about your short-comings,
both material and mental, oodles of hours
over which you can feel bad about
not doing the things you should or want
but instead whiling away bucket loads
of opportunity with Mad Men or
The Walking Dead, years of missed episodes,
one more summer you hope to
but will inevitably fail to read Moby Dick,
do creative work, learn a trade,
build a needed thing, fix a broken thing,
repair what was neglected during the
nine months you taught while possessed
and driven by your noble purpose
and 200 plus individuals who expected you
to make things happen every day.

So what will you do?
I have a suggestion or two:
Give yourself permission to do nothing.
But don’t do too much nothing.
Try to balance the hours of nothing
with an even or better than even amount
of something–even if it’s ridiculous.
Be okay spending hours hitting a
badminton birdy back and forth
in the lawn with your boy, not
bothering to actually compete,
only counting the hits back and forth,
over and over again.
Go ahead, try to read Moby Dick  and
be all right with the fact that you’ll
most likely not make it all the way through.
Read a book written by a friend
or recommended by a friend.
Put aside your dreams of a new Airstream
and buy a tent, for Christ’s sake, and go out
somewhere and camp under a super moon.
Listen to music, play music if you can,
and try to love somebody better.

Yeah, the summertime blues is a real thing,
but it doesn’t have to kill you–not this time.

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Filed under Poetry, Self Reflection, Teaching, Writing and Reading

#42: The Father’s Day Poem

Father's Day Card

The Father’s Day Poem

My son hid little homemade Father’s Day cards
around the house for me to find,
hid them several times over
so I could find them again.

One of them said,
“You are a star of men.”
Flattering will get you nowhere, son,
I said, but he and I both know
that most of the time
that’s just not true.

Another card said, “You made me
and I’m glad you did.”
I can only claim partial responsibility
for that, I told him.  Perhaps I did some
engineering but your mother
did the heavy lifting. Still does.

And another one, the
card that was actually the first
in the series, said,
“Sorry for hitting you
on Father’s Day
I am sorry.”

And on this last one
he had drawn a monster
and I told him I liked it.
“That’s no monster, Daddy.
That’s you.”  And we shared
a laugh over that one–

the apology card over
the picture of an angry
Father on Father’s Day,
the card that would
launch a whole series
of cards to make Dad
feel appreciated and loved,
and that might perhaps
earn the boy back the screen time
he had lost for hitting his father.

It worked.

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#41: On the Very Last Work Day of the School Year


On the Very Last Work Day of the School Year

It began with a breakfast
during which we said tearful
goodbyes to beloved colleagues
retiring or moving on,
a difficult, but joyful thing,
wanting them to stay but
wishing them well and happy returns
for all they’ve done for our school
and our kids.
We were out of practice;
for the longest time in our building
hardly a soul has come or gone,
at least, not willingly and not publicly
like this.
And then I was buried in my room,
sitting in front of a computer for hours,
racing against time to finish
this activity that passes for grading sometimes
and that, while it practically kills my remaining
sanity, likely makes very little difference
in the long haul.
My wife came in to help me
pick up my room and I was thankful
for that little comfort.
And when I was finally finished
hours after she had gone home,
I realized I was perhaps the last teacher
out of the building on this very last
work day of the school year,
one year closer to retirement
and nowhere closer to having the answers
about how to best balance my work,
about how to maximize the meaningful
and jettison the nonsense,
about how best to spend my time
so that there is no question at the end of the day
or at the end of the year that I have indeed done
the very best work I can do.
Before that day comes for me that
some of my colleagues experienced today,
I want to have figured this much out.
I want to walk out those doors
on the very last work day of the school year
doing the most joyful of victory dances,
not because it’s over,
but because I rocked it like a mother.

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Filed under Education, Poetry, Self Reflection, Teaching

#40: Gertrude and Alice Learning Targets (a book spine poem)


This was a happy accident.  These books were pretty much in this order on my desktop, so, inspired by a recent book spine photo I saw in The Mighty Social Network, I decided to “craft” my first book spine poem.  And I love the idea that the company suggested by the following titles would have not a few things to say about current fads in education reform.  What would Gertrude Stein have to say about writing rubrics, for example.  I also like how I worked my hair into the photo of the poem. So here goes a very slight thing.

Gertrude and Alice Learning Targets

The river Why
contested Will,
Gertrude and Alice
learning targets,
rethinking rubrics.

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Filed under Education, Poetry

#39: On the End of the School Year


On the End of the School Year

It’s always a cluster,
unnatural and awkward
in every way,
but mostly for teachers,
or maybe just for
teachers like yourself,
English teachers with too many students,
too much grading,
not enough time to get it done,
or, at least, to do it well,
speeding through, losing sleep,
desperate to get every last thing
into an impossibly shorter school year,
making unsound but necessary omissions,
trying to calm or placate
stressed out students
in constant states of anxiety
about the things that matter least,
always plagued with the sense
you suspect is more than a sense
but actual fact
that you’re not doing it right–
perhaps for the twenty-fourth time,
you’re not doing it right


Filed under Poetry, Teaching