Archives for posts with tag: school

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Writing the Sky
by Mary Langer Thompson

Zebra Learners, touch your nose
if you practiced your letters.

How do I make a little b?

First you make your…

Ball?

No. The bat.
First you make the bat.
Start at the top and go down.
Watch me write in the air.

Oh, good. I’ll hit the ball with my bat.

Everyone, take out your hands.
Max, I need to see your hands.

Say the letter.

b.

Say the letter. Use big arm movements.

Now m.
m goes all the way to the ground.
Take your time. Good job.
You know what? It’s okay.
’cause I’m here to help.
Let’s rescue the sinking letters.

Look, we’re making the mountains meet.

Like when we made the v’s touch.

Teacher, can you walk on air?

When I’m with you, I do.

PHOTO: Kindergarten class by Wee Dezign, used by permission. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was inspired by an actual teacher and lesson I observed several years ago. The kindergarten teacher really cared for her students, as do so many of the hero teachers who are teaching virtually, a new challenge. I know that teachers like the one in the poem will be just fine because they really care about children.

ADDITIONAL NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My mother, former teacher June Langer (shown on the left), painted this schoolhouse. She did not start painting until her 80s and is now in her 90s and still painting and writing. She is a member of the “Wise Women” critique group of the High Desert California Writers Club and believes it’s never too late to start doing what you really want to do.   

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Langer Thompson is a retired school principal and former English teacher who now writes full time. Her poetry has been published in such journals as Popshot, Snapdragon, and Silver Birch Press. In 2012, she was the Senior Poet Laureate of California. Her collection Poems in Water is available on Amazon.com.

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To the classroom pencil amid Covid-19
by Paul Ruth

Somewhere there is a classroom with
a drawer in the teacher’s desk,
or a bin partially filled in front of the class,
or off to the side,
or by the door near the hand-crank pencil sharpener used
only when the electric one burns out,
that contains used pencils.

At the beginning of the year,
they might have been new.
Some were a carryover
from the year before.

Some might have been donated new,
but often they are donated by forgetfulness
on the desks, floors, and in the corners
of a lost thought.
The hexagon with an eraser tip
is the classic shape.
Many are round,
coated with a message or holiday theme.

Yet they all wait quietly
for brainstorming sessions,
math calculations (where you need to show your work), and
historical exposés on why all this matters.
In the right hands it can even be used for a representation in graphite.

If the pen is mightier than the sword
then the classroom pencil is the infantry,
the pawns in a game of chess.
It is the unsung hero given a medal for bravery.
The frontline worker only noticed now.

But it isn’t a fighter.
It is a peaceful rendition
hopefully waiting
for the classroom to fill
for minds to awaken
for hope to spill
over jumpstarting motivation,
passion,
enlightenment.

Has the classroom pencil seen its last days?
I think not!

It would be pulled through a fist
encasing it with a sanitary wipe
while a pandemic rages
and safety fades.
Although, the sticky pencils always seemed to get thrown back in the bin.

Still used to scribble notes
when despite its best efforts,
the computer just can’t quite keep up with our thoughts.

So they wait for the longest break
to end.
They wait to do what they have to do.
To forge ahead
to do what they did
once again
when we will begin again to live in a world
free from dread.

PHOTO: Student with pencils by Sashasan, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wanted to capture not just the person but the experience of the teaching profession during these times. The classroom pencil bin was always something I and others took for granted in the classroom. Now I understand how deeply Covid has impacted our lives, right down to the playful practicality of borrowing a pencil to do schoolwork. In writing this, I thought of all the teachers I have known and all the classrooms I have been in as a teacher and student.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Paul Ruth is a high school English teacher and adjunct college instructor from the Metro Detroit area. He has written opinion articles on the state of education in Michigan and makes his aphorisms available through his Instagram account @envisionedaphorism. He also co-produces the Instagram account @limmieslimericks with his girlfriend with limericks from the perspective of his Old English Sheepdog named Limerick.

Hernandez Door
An offering
by Jennifer Hernandez

At my doorstep
four boxes of Samoas
delivered by my friend,
mother of Girl Scouts.

An envelope taped
to the door, $20 cash.
The virus can survive
5 days on paper.

She rang the bell to seal
delivery. We smiled weakly
through the glass outer door
& waved.

I gathered the wafers,
sold on scarcity principles
long before TP shortages,
carried them gently inside.

Small comfort.
Holy Communion
for the three sons,
near-adults, who now live

cloistered lives in dark rooms
murmuring prayers, incantations
hypnotized by flickering screens
waiting, waiting for deliverance.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: A Facebook post from a teacher/writer friend about Girl Scout cookies turned into a special delivery turned into a poem. As a person fortunate enough to be waiting out the coronavirus in my own home with my family, I am grateful for the silver lining of having the time and space to reflect and write about the experience. There are many small pleasures of human connection that I hope to never take quite so much for granted again.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Hernandez, Minnesota teacher/writer, has performed her poetry at a non-profit garage and a taxidermy-filled bike shop. Currently, she’s on a crash course to implement distance learning with middle school English learners, while simultaneously homeschooling her high school sons. She didn’t sign up for this. Recent publications include Three Drops in a Cauldron, Talking Stick, Writers Resist, Sleet Magazine, and Poetry in the Park in the Dark. She is overjoyed at the return of Silver Birch Press.

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Will you?
by Salena Casha

It was a chant
A quick one-two beat
My tongue thick with nerves
So wired i could feel every
Postule writhing in a language
i didn’t know.

The notecard: tucked into my pocket
edges pinching my fingers
speaking to me in my own tongue
even though i was fluent in his
within my head.

It didn’t matter, the answer, nein.
No, danke. Thank you.
I trained myself for this,
practiced the way he’d say it
blond curls lit up and burning my
insides.

The air smelled of baked asphalt,
curried pollen, boy sweat.
He walked ahead, his converse
soles slapping away from me
and i stepped in his shoes. Keeping up
but behind.

I don’t know if i said his name but he turned to me
and my hands shook even though it was my tongue
that would do the talking and someone whispered

“Willst du mit mir zum Prom gehen?“

He frowned. No nein. No no. Just a blank stare
As i shuffled for the card and offered it to him,
my handwriting smudged, my fingerprints stained
and smeared on the blue lines.

He looked at me and smiled, wide and bright,
and I stared into him, a transfixed star
even as my face burnt red in the sun.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Friends are the best sort of dates to proms (6/8/2009).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Some people say kids are resilient, but at 17 you feel fragile. Like a word could splinter a sliver of you, an important puzzle piece, especially if it’s a “no.” But still, somehow, the romantics of that age prevail. Or at least they did for me when I asked a German exchange student to prom my senior year of high school. Embarrassing? Yes. Successful? I don’t have any prom photos to prove it. However, that moment when I offered him my heart on an index card is one of the most formative moments in the year of Salena Casha: teen nerd.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Salena Casha‘s work has appeared in over 30 publications. She was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize for her story “Il Sale Della Terra,” which appeared in the fall issue of Mulberry Fork Review and her flash fiction piece was selected by Roxane Gay for the Top (Very) Short Stories of 2015. She was a finalist for the 2013-2014 Boston Public Library’s Children’s Writer-in-Residence and a 2011 Bread Loaf Scholarship Recipient in Fiction. Her first three picture books are housed under the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt umbrella. Follow her on twitter @salaylay_c.

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I Didn’t Want Mama to Kiss Me Anymore
by Shahé Mankerian

Every morning, she drove me to school
in Father’s Chevrolet. The radio spewed static.

She parked crooked by the curb and allowed
the engine to idle so it won’t die. The heavy

metal clique against the no parking wall
smoked cigarettes. Mama with her maroon

lipstick reached over and kissed me
underneath the twisted sycamore. I rubbed

my face and prayed Syliva, the girl I loved
since seventh grade, never saw this. Once,

during English period, Mrs. Reyna, read
my poem to the class: When you turn

seventeen, cram Mama in a box, duct tape
the lids quickly, so she’ll never come out.

PHOTO: The author at 17.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wanted to recreate the classic Freudian mother-and-son tension in the poem. If Sophocles claimed, “Sons are the anchors of a mother’s life,” then I wanted to break the chain that linked them together. High school years are the perfect catalyst for such breakups. Overnight, boys discover girls, and mothers come face-to-face with their dreaded kryptonite.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shahé Mankerian is the principal of St. Gregory Alfred and Marguerite Hovsepian School in Pasadena, California, and the co-director of the Los Angeles Writing Project. As an educator, he has been honored with the Los Angeles Music Center’s BRAVO Award, which recognizes teachers for innovation and excellence in arts education. His most recent manuscript, History of Forgetfulness, has been a finalist at four prestigious competitions: the 2013 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition, the 2013 Bibby First Book Competition, the Quercus Review Press, Fall Poetry Book Award, 2013, and the 2014 White Pine Press Poetry Prize. His poems have been published in numerous literary magazines.

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MOTEL CHRONICLES (Excerpt)

by Sam Shepard

I remember trying to imitate Burt Lancaster’s smile after I saw him and Gary Cooper in Vera Cruz. For days, I practiced in the backyard. Weaving through the tomato plants. Sneering. Grinning that grin. Sliding my upper lip up over my teeth. After a few days of practice, I tried it out on the girls at school. They didn’t seem to notice. I broadened my interpretation until I started getting strange reactions from the other kids. They would look straight at my teeth and a fear would creep into their eyes. I’d forgotten how bad my teeth were. How one of the front ones was dead and brown and overlapped the broken one right next to it. I’d actually come to believe I was in possession of a full head of perfectly pearly Burt Lancaster-type of teeth. I didn’t want to scare anyone so I stopped grinning after that. I only did it in private…

Photo: Burt Lancaster as Joe Erin in Vera Cruz (1954)

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A CERTAIN SWIRL
Poem by Mary Ruefle

The classroom was dark, all the desks were empty, 

and the sentence on the board was frightened to 

find itself alone. The sentence wanted someone to 

read it, the sentence thought it was a fine sentence, a 

noble, thorough sentence, perhaps a sentence of 

some importance, made of chalk dust, yes, but a sen-
tence that contained within itself a certain swirl
not 
unlike the nebulous heart of the unknown universe, 

but if no one read it, how could it be sure? Perhaps it 

was a dull sentence and that was why everyone had 

left the room and turned out the lights. Night came, 

and the moon with it. The sentence sat on the board
and shone. It was beautiful to look at, but no one 

read it.
***
“A Certain Swirl” appears in Mary Ruefle‘s collection The Most of It (Wave books, 2008), available at Amazon.com.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Ruefle‘s book Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures, was a finalist for the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism (Wave Books, 2012), and her Selected Poems (Wave Books, 2010), won the William Carlos Williams Award. Reufle has published ten other books of poetry, a book of prose (The Most of It, Wave Books, 2008), and a comic book, Go Home and Go to Bed!, (Pilot Books/Orange Table Comics, 2007); she is also an erasure artist, whose treatments of nineteenth century texts have been exhibited in museums and galleries, and include the publication of A Little White Shadow (Wave Books, 2006). Ruefle is the recipient of numerous honors, including an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and a Whiting Award. She lives in Bennington, Vermont, and teaches in the MFA program at Vermont College.

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THE FRIENDLY BOOK (Excerpt)
by Margaret Wise Brown

I like dogs
Big dogs
Little dogs
Fat dogs
Doggy dogs
Old dogs
Puppy dogs
I like dogs
A dog that is barking over the hill
A dog that is dreaming very still
A dog that is running wherever he will
I like dogs.

Photo: Artour A, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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ON GIRLS LENDING PENS
By Taylor Mali

I walked into the classroom and straight to my chair,
But when I reached for my pen, it just wasn’t there!
I had no pen! or crayon! or pencil!
I was stuck before class without a writing utensil.

I could have asked the teacher (if I had dared,)
But I knew she would have said, “You’re unprepared!”
So to be diplomatic and avoid the fight
I quickly turned to the girl on my right,

Do you possibly have a pen I could borrow?
I’ll use it today and have it back by tomorrow.
“Oh! Furshur! What kind? I’ve got plenty.”
And she turned around with a handful of twenty.

I really don’t care what color or style,
I’ll take the fountain pen, I said with a smile.
“Oh, you don’t want that one. It comes out all ugly.
And it’s made of pure gold,” she said to me smugly.

Then how bout the blue?
“No, that one hops.”
Okay, maybe the green?
“Comes out in glops.”
Black?
“I’m afraid it’s having trouble connecting.”
Red?
“I’ll need it if we do any in-class correcting.”
Look, I said, my voice filling with fear,
Just gimme a pen before the teacher gets here!

“But this one always comes out in tons,
The yellow one skips and the purple one runs.
When the brown one dries, it looks real icky,
And the orange one’s covered with something sticky.
This one’s for emergencies (in case I get confused)
‘cause it’s clean and it’s fresh and it’s never been used.
I keep this one for quizzes ‘cause it brings good luck,
And the ballpoint’s splotchy and the cap is stuck.
This one’s empty, with the silver band,
And the felt-tip will leak all over your hand.
This one’s cracked, and that’s gone berserk!
And that would be perfect but it doesn’t work.
But here! Take this one! This one’s fine!
Oh wait…I’m sorry, this one’s mine.”
I think she went on but I couldn’t have cared.
I decided it was better to go unprepared.

###

Visit poet Taylor Mail at his website taylormali.com. See him read “On Girls Lending Pens” at wikispaces.com.

Photo: My Life as a Bargainista, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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A CERTAIN SWIRL

Poem by Mary Ruefle

  The classroom was dark, all the desks were empty, 


and the sentence on the board was frightened to 


find itself alone. The sentence wanted someone to 


read it, the sentence thought it was a fine sentence, a 


noble, thorough sentence, perhaps a sentence of 


some importance, made of chalk dust, yes, but a sen-

tence that contained within itself a certain swirl

not 
unlike the nebulous heart of the unknown universe, 


but if no one read it, how could it be sure? Perhaps it 


was a dull sentence and that was why everyone had 


left the room and turned out the lights. Night came, 


and the moon with it. The sentence sat on the board

and shone. It was beautiful to look at, but no one 


read it.

“A Certain Swirl” is found in Mary Ruefle‘s collection The Most of It (Wave books, 2008), available at Amazon.com.