More Poetry on Teachers and Teaching

Last month I began a feature on poetry about teachers and teaching. Poets who write about teaching are educators, students, and non-educators. Across the globe, they share a common experience of being in classrooms for years. Capturing the feelings, thoughts, and special moments of teaching and studenting in vivid, crisp words and images is the province of poets. Here are some poems that struck me sufficiently to stop and ponder about something I thought I knew so well after decades of teaching and learning.

 

Forty-Seven Minutes*

by Nick Flynn

Years later I’m standing before a roomful of young writers in a high school in Texas. I’ve asked them to locate an image in a poem we’d just read—their heads at this moment are bowed to the page. After some back & forth about the grass & a styrofoam cup, a girl raises her hand & asks, Does it matter? I smile—it is as if the universe balanced on those three words & we’ve landed in the unanswerable. I have to admit that no, it doesn’t, not really, matter, if rain is an image or rain is an idea or rain is a sound in our heads. But, I whisper, leaning in close, to get through the next forty-seven minutes we might have to pretend it does.

__________

* Thanks to Ann Staley for sending this along

 

 

Mrs. Krikorian
by Sharon Olds
She saved me. When I arrived in 6th grade,
a known criminal, the new teacher
asked me to stay after school the first day, she said
I’ve heard about you. She was a tall woman,
with a deep crevice between her breasts,
and a large, calm nose. She said,
This is a special library pass.
As soon as you finish your hour’s work

that hour’s work that took ten minutes
and then the devil glanced into the room
and found me empty, a house standing open—
you can go to the library. Every hour
I’d zip through the work in a dash and slip out of my
seat as if out of God’s side and sail
down to the library, solo through the empty
powerful halls, flash my pass
and stroll over to the dictionary
to look up the most interesting word
I knew, spank, dipping two fingers
into the jar of library paste to
suck that tart mucilage as I
came to the page with the cocker spaniel’s
silks curling up like the fine steam of the body.
After spank, and breast, I’d move on
to Abe Lincoln and Helen Keller,
safe in their goodness till the bell, thanks
to Mrs. Krikorian, amiable giantess
with the kind eyes. When she asked me to write
a play, and direct it, and it was a flop, and I
hid in the coat-closet, she brought me a candy-cane
as you lay a peppermint on the tongue, and the worm
will come up out of the bowel to get it.
And so I was emptied of Lucifer
and filled with school glue and eros and
Amelia Earhart, saved by Mrs. Krikorian.
And who had saved Mrs. Krikorian?
When the Turks came across Armenia, who
slid her into the belly of a quilt, who
locked her in a chest, who mailed her to America?
And that one, who saved her, and that one—
who saved her, to save the one
who saved Mrs. Krikorian, who was
standing there on the sill of 6th grade, a
wide-hipped angel, smokey hair
standing up weightless all around her head?
I end up owing my soul to so many,
to the Armenian nation, one more soul someone
jammed behind a stove, drove
deep into a crack in a wall,
shoved under a bed. I would wake
up, in the morning, under my bed—not
knowing how I had got there—and lie
in the dusk, the dustballs beside my face
round and ashen, shining slightly
with the eerie comfort of what is neither good nor evil.

 

The Poet Dreams of the Classroom**

by Mary Oliver

I dreamed

I stood up in class

and I said aloud:

Teacher,

why is algebra important?

Sit down, he said.

 

Then I dreamed

I stood up

and I said:

Teacher, I’m weary of turkeys

that we have to draw every fall.

May I draw a fox instead?

Sit down, he said.

 

 

Then I dreamed

I stood up once more and said:

Teacher,

my heart is falling asleep

and it wants to wake up.

It needs to be outside.

Sit down, he said.

______

**Taken from Sam Intrator and Megan Scribner, Teaching with Heart: Poetry That Speaks To the Courage To Teach (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2014), p. 125.

 

About these ads

2 Comments

Filed under how teachers teach

2 responses to “More Poetry on Teachers and Teaching

  1. Pingback: More Poetry on Teachers and Teaching | Leadersh...

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s