#426: The Veteran American English Teacher Reads an Inspirational Book for New Teachers (a poem on April 20, 2022)

The Veteran American English Teacher
finds this thing,
Apples and Chalkdust, Inspirational
Stories and Encouragement for Teachers,
among the effects that another teacher
left behind years ago in his third or fourth
year of teaching, leaving the profession
to work in a winery. Inscribed to him,
It was a gift from a student
or the parents of a student,
who must have thought this young teacher
was in need of some aspirational writings
about his chosen vocation.


The Veteran American English Teacher
is amused by this text, and,
far be it from him to disparage
its author, nevertheless finds
it one of the silliest things he’s
ever seen. Sincere, heartfelt,
and earnest, clearly coming from
the best intentions of its author,
the Veteran American English Teacher
finds it hokey–and he’s not, he would
argue, a cynical person. A kind of
chicken soup for a teacher’s soul,
it offers upbeat but inane advice.
Most of it, condescending pablum.


Here are a few
of its gems, all of which accompany
these tiny scenarios a young
teacher may face in the throes
of his or her workday:


Turn every situation, positive or negative,
into a learning experience.


Don’t let your concern for tomorrow
keep you from making an impact today.


It doesn’t really matter how big your
budget is if you are a good steward
of what you’ve been given.


Your undying commitment
may well be met by undying gratitude.


Teach your students to reach,
and they’ll never stay on the ground.


Attitude is everything! If you are unhappy
with where God has placed you,
look inside your heart.


It’s possible that, my colleague,
many years ago, after his third
year of teaching, read this last passage,
looked inside his heart, and then
decided that God wanted him
in the winery. The Veteran American
English Teacher thinks that if he had
read this book in his third or fourth
year of teaching, he would have wanted
to work in a winery, or anywhere else
but a school. Dodged that bullet,
he thinks. In his 33rd year, he wonders,
what would his book of advice
to teachers new to the profession
look like? And 25 years from now,
would some veteran American English
teacher find his handbook silly, hokey,
condescending, upbeat and inane?
He doubts that, but only time will tell.

Published by michaeljarmer

I'm a public high school English teacher, fiction writer, poet, and musician in Portland, Oregon

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