Tag Archives: poem about education

#427: A Poem from Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing” on April 21, 2022

my school, again

I hear the American High School
singing, the varied carols I hear:
students sing their way
down the hallways and
into classrooms, where,
sometimes, they stop
singing, quiet, heads
down, depressed or
exhausted–other times
the singing never ceases
and their verses and choruses
percolate and resonate through
each 87 minute period.
I hear the teachers
sing their teaching voices,
singing their lessons
unceasingly, tirelessly,
mustering the energy
reserves to sing all the way
through to the end,
day after day, 180 of them,
year after year.
I hear the campus security
team, singing their
support and care for the
safety of everyone inside.
The cooks and the janitors,
doing what they can, their songs
keeping the people fed
and the building clean,
a deathless song without end.
I hear the singing of the entire
support staff, instructional assistants,
registrars, office secretaries,
couriers, all singing to keep
everything hanging together.
And I hear the principal singing,
juggling a dozen different songs,
sometimes singing the verse
from one after the chorus of
another, looking for the absolute
best tune from which to lead,
never completely satisfied,
always striving. All of them singing
in the American High School
through open mouths
their strong, melodious songs.

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#179: A “Workable” Solution

Today the English Department
got together to figure out how
to relieve a colleague of a student load of


That’s all I really have to say.
The fact alone is enough.
One of our colleagues
was assigned 217 students.

The obvious solution,
hiring another teacher,
is apparently out of the question.

A school is given so many
positions of full time employment
and it is what it is and for the most part
cannot be changed.

It might be of interest to reveal
how we “solved” the problem:
One heroic individual volunteered
to teach five preparations.

This was a “workable” solution.


Filed under Education, Poetry, Teaching

#113: The Child House


The Child House

is so called because
the children in this
building outnumber
the adults about
thirty-seven to one.
Inside over a thousand
big children are
busy (or not) at some
purpose which often
remains mysterious
to them, but never-
theless is perceived
by many to be of some
importance. Many
of the kids love the
Child House, cherish
it, not only as a place
that effectively prepares
them for something,
but as a place where
they are nurtured and
cared for.  Other kids,
in the exact same
Child House, hate
their time there, and
hate the structure
itself and everything
within.  They do
nothing, get nothing,
achieve nothing, are
always at odds with
everything about the
Child House.  Arguably,
these are the children
who need it most and
who will fare the worst
in the world without it.
The adults worry.
Even though people
outside the Child House
think they know what’s
best for it and its children,
and do their best to impose
their will upon it in the form
of measurements of all
kinds funded by people
who know nothing and
have never set foot inside
the Child House, the Child House
works or it doesn’t work
resting on only a few key
factors: do the adults know
what they are doing, and
do the children know
what they are doing
and why they are
doing it? Then the
Child House is working–
beyond any kind of
corporate funded reform.
Only those inside
the Child House can
know what its children
need and no law
or measure or fix
prescribed from without
will ever change that.
The Child House
remains operational
and more effective
than anyone outside
its walls might ever know.
And its message
to all its detractors
and those intent
on tearing down its
walls:  Look inside.
Look inside the Child House.  


Filed under Education, Poetry, Teaching

#77: What I’m Doing While My Students Are Taking Standardized Tests


I’m writing poetry, of course.
Early in the semester, I’ve got no
grading to do and I’m unusually
planned for the upcoming unit.
My students are taking a standardized
writing test for which they choose
one dumb prompt from four dumb
prompts in each of the four and only
four dumb categories of writing that exist
in the world: expository, persuasive,
narrative non-fiction, and imaginative.
They cannot write poetry.
So I am writing it for them.
But these are poems about teaching.
And this poem here is a poem about writing
and the teaching of writing and the
testing of the teaching of writing.
An argument could be made that
of all types of standardized tests,
that this one, because kids actually
have an opportunity to show how
they think and how they write, at
least is authentic. But I’m not sure
that it is authentic—in fact, I’m rather
convinced that it is not.  Disconnected
from any course content, it’s an
assessment that reduces learning
and art down to a set of supposedly
quantitative and objective skills.
And it’s high stakes.  A kid’s
graduation almost entirely depends
upon it.  And these are my biggest
gripes about the test—its do or die
ethic, its uniformity, its rigidness,
its total disregard for divergent ways
of learning and knowing, its
displacement of curriculum, its
dissimilarity to any actual writing
that’s done by real writers.  The
only thing I like about the standardized
test is that it affords me time to think
and write poetry about how I don’t like
standardized tests.

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Filed under Education, Poetry, Teaching, Writing and Reading