Tag Archives: poems about teaching

#142: This School Year Has Not Been, Thus Far,


On this second day of National Poetry Writing Month, compliments of the prompt for the first day on the http://www.napowrimo.net website, a poem of negation, a poem that describes a thing in terms of what it is not:

This School Year Has Not Been, Thus Far, 

soft and cuddly,
a baby blanket;
warm and inviting,
the embrace of a friend;
easy, easy like
a Sunday morning
or any number of
other schmaltzy
but irresistible
Lionel Richie tunes;
a slow dance with
Gillian Anderson;
a romp, a joy ride,
a ticket to paradise,
a frolic, a jaunt,
a walk in the park.
Three quarters
of the way through,
it can only get better,
I tell myself,
hopefully, not only
through its cessation,
its culminating
conclusion, but
rather, through its rally,
its redemption, its
hidden possibility,
its potential to be
not quite the sucker
puncher it has proven
to be thus far.

Because the alternative
to hope is despair
and I don’t play that game;
I am armed to
the teeth against it
and I refuse to go out
kicking and screaming.


Filed under Poetry, Teaching

#141 Teaching Without A Voice


I begin the cruelest month of National Poetry Writing hopefully recovering from a bout of laryngitis and ready to go back to the classroom.  Thus, the inspiration for my first poem of 30, one for every day of the month of April, comes not from a prompt, but from this:

Teaching Without A Voice

is difficult,
almost as difficult as
what circus performers
do without nets, or
more apt, what a musician
might do without his

I was losing my voice
and I told my 9th graders,
I’m losing my voice so please
don’t make me have to talk
over the top of your talking.

They then proceeded
to make me talk over the top
of their talking so that at
the end of the day all I could
do was whisper and it wasn’t
sexy or anything like that.

It hurt. And early this morning,
voice not yet functioning,
the voiceless teacher
calls in sick, thinking,
there’s no chance I can
teach without a voice,
but something goes wrong
in the process (something about
filing on-line for a sub at 3 o’clock
in the morning) and no substitute
shows up.

Unfed, unwashed,
lunch unpacked, barely able
to stand upright after a
sleepless night of coughing,
I, the teacher without a voice,
stand in my classroom trying
to figure out how I can
introduce Neruda to 11th graders
and the Holocaust to 9th graders
in a whisper, when, less than
ten minutes before kids walk
in the room, a substitute arrives
somewhat miraculously.
In a whisper, because it’s all I can do,
I go over the plans, point to the piles of handouts,
and walk out of the room waving goodbye
to the students already there,
many of whom wish me better health.

I leave the building
crossing my fingers for a minor train wreck,
something somewhat less than a
complete disaster
and for a voice to return
to its rightful owner.

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#32: Gatsby? What Gatsby?


Gatsby? What Gatsby?

is what Daisy says
when she hears Jordan Baker
mention the name to Nick,
and it’s what teenagers
used to say before they
knew Leonardo DiCaprio
was starring in the new
Baz Luhrmann film.
Suddenly, now, they
want to read this novel
because they recognize
the name and because Leonardo
is starring in the new
Baz Luhrmann film.
And as I read the opening pages
to my students today,
we wondered together
how those words might
be rendered in 3-D:
Here’s some advice my father
gave me–in 3-D.
Here’s me, the victim of
a few veteran bores–in 3-D.
Reserving judgements is a matter
of infinite hope–in 3-D.
The fundamental decencies
are parceled out unequally at birth
–in 3-D.  And that’s just
the very first page.
We all agreed how exciting
it will be to see the foul dust
floating in the wake of Gatsby’s dreams
come alive on the screen in 3-D.
And somehow, I’m thinking
that a much better movie of
The Great Gatsby would
be to capture on film what
that one guy did on the stage
in 7 hours:  he read or recited
the whole damn novel out loud.
There we might have a film
of an American classic.

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