What they have to learn

The teacher hadn’t enjoyed teaching in a long while

ever since her notions and reality rubbed against one another

exploding the myth she held in teaching college, of making a difference

her students

whom the administrators asked her to refer to as clients

wanted to pay for a degree, not to learn

we don’t have time to study they lamented

we are too busy with everything else which is, so much more important

the students

did not respect her because she earned less than

they believed they would earn in a few years time

she wanted to say DREAM ON but it was no longer acceptable

to tell the truth

especially with college administrators

(who were paid well, to shuffle papers from desk to desk)

watching in the wings

she recalled why

she had wanted to be a teacher

at eight she’d been sent to a foster home

where the ‘father’ decided to show and tell

using his fingers in wrong positions

she ran away and lived

underneath a bridge for the night

listening to the stars wink on and off

and the weave and fall of the world

the next day they found her, dirty and lost

spanked her for making up lies about being abused

and sent her to another foster home

this time the mother

starved her lean

told her she was fat and ugly

when she hardly weighed in

got her to clean and cook and scrub

she preferred that kind of reality

it didn’t involve lies it was honest in its

taste of cruel

when summer was over and she returned to school

a new teacher had begun work

she had the faraway eyes of a dreamer

and her voice was soft like bird song

without saying a word she knew the children who

had been neglected and abused

she’d encourage them often and whisper in their ears

this may seem like this is all there is

but there’s so much more!

one day you will be free to escape your confines

you can shrug off your sadness and become

anything you want

so when the time came for her to age out of the system

she didn’t bring flowers and a card for her foster-mother

instead she packed her single bag and left before

morning showed in the sky

the room was bare and emptied but somehow

it didn’t look so different to when she’d lain there

trying to take up the smallest space

funny that we can inhabit a place for so many years and

when we leave it’s like we were never there

a wraith who didn’t get heard or couldn’t

break out of her little mincing trap of potted meat

she hated the flabby jowls and empty eyes

of those who pretended to keep

her safe

being old enough now to look after herself she

enrolled in teaching college hoping one day

she could reach a child who sat at the back of class

with dirty socks and a mouth full of regret

but time moves on and things change even as they stay the same

kids become hardened, demanding, insolent

hurry up, please it’s time!

parents throw expectations like rocks and call educators

pathetic losers who can’t do, so they teach

she wondered

is cruelty a vein, like in a rock

inherited over time to savage and destabilize

our yearning for safety?

standing there, in her cheap hose and one good pair of shoes

the scuff blacked out by polishing

she saw in the sassing faces of her classroom

a loss of care for changing the world

her own longing to reach through time and alter

one person’s trajectory lost

in the hustle bustle of uncaring formula

spitting out diplomas and marching forward

not thinking at all

about what they have to learn

Written for World Teacher Day. In appreciation of teachers.


36 thoughts on “What they have to learn

  1. In this, there are many lines worth quoting, but this…

    “but it was no longer acceptable

    to tell the truth

    especially with college administrators

    (who were paid well, to shuffle papers from desk to desk)

    watching in the wings

    she recalled why”

    It brings the poem alive. The depth of it began here for me and lasted throughout.

  2. Remember when we were in school and the teacher was always right? Maybe that was a wrong-headed extreme but the other way around has really destroyed teachers value. xo

  3. Teachers have been completely rubbished. I have had a couple of different heads as clients suffering from depression at the impossible tasks they have to manage. They have no sanctions and are expected to be accountants

  4. Exactly. As it is World Teacher Day I wanted to write an appreciation of teachers because much as I may have had some ‘bad’ ones I think they are so underappreciated. You’re right about no sanctions.

  5. [My mind begins to paraphrase bits of Leonard Cohen.]

    Are you the teachers of the heart?”, she asked.
    “We teach young hearts to break.”
    One taught those broken hearts to hope.
    She was not alone, but did it secretly.
    To be such as that became the dream,
    To teach what really matters.
    Perhaps there is, somewhere,
    The right kind of school.

  6. I love this. I have always been grateful for the teachers who brought the world to life for me or for my children.
    I know how hard their job is, how difficult it is, impossible probably, to fit to everyone’s needs, but most importantly, as a parent representative, I’ve also seen so many parents expect things that didn’t make sense, simply because “their child is different, deserves better”. I also know of students who struggle so much in their home lives that expecting the same of them as you could do others is difficult. I guess everyone has their own struggles, some are just better at hiding them than others. Or are taught their is no help available, no hope, so why waste energy requesting any? I’m not sure.
    Your post brougth me to thoughts that are not exactly… positive? I don’t know!
    Thank you for making me think and reminding me of all the great teachers I’ve had too (and some of my children’s who saved me in their own way…)!

    “she wondered

    is cruelty a vein, like in a rock

    inherited over time to savage and destabilize

    our yearning for safety?”

    To me, this is a good question. But I believe we all get to choose how we want to live life. And we can either decide to reproduce what we suffered from, what we were taught, or choose to not follow that path and do as much good as we can. We all have the choice, at some point. It’s not always easy, but cruelty isn’t a vein… or at least, if it is, it may be like a coal vein, that, with the right spark (oftentimes brought by a teacher, even if not necessarily in a school setting) can be burnt out of the rock that surrounds it πŸ˜‰

  7. “one day you will be free to escape your confines”
    this was raw and at times heartbreaking. well done! i enjoy your posts.

  8. Without teachers we are lost. And we lose more of them to poverty and frustration every day.

    So well written and said, Warrioress. πŸ’™

  9. I can’t even forge research on vaccines causing autism for my Masters degree at ANY American Univeristy because of the governmental controls and Big Pharma conglomerates wanting to snuff people’s opinions. Teaching from an altruistic standpoint of presenting factual data is certainly a has-been.

  10. Really? That totally sucks. I bet you could in Canada. Did you know that Canadian Universities will pay you to go there sometimes if your subject is one they are interested in? Just a thought. I knew several people who were PAID to do PhD’s in Canada where they taught as well and didn’t have to pay out anything except living expenses which were defrayed by the $ they made! Just a thought because you’re right, they are closed to the idea here, although it’s FAR worse in the UK where they really demonized it when Andrew Wakley came out (turns out he was right all along) he’s here in TX now I believe.

  11. Nice to see you here. Why did I use the word nice? I hate that word. But it is. I guess I didn’t want to say WONDERFUL incase you thought I was crazy about you, which of course I am πŸ™‚ Seriously though … I’m having a bad writers-block so what I’m writing now I’m not happy with – I will be back I hope with things I do like but this was written for National Teachers Day because I feel they are malined and underappreciated. Thank you for visiting here, I miss our talks. I hope you are doing good (I was going to say well but I hate the word well) πŸ˜‰

  12. Ah thank you. I agree and it saddens me that so many cannot afford to live although they are the ones who bring up our future generations whilst others who do comparatively little value in society are paid so much it is so wrong.

  13. Thank you so much. I really appreciate you saying this. I felt strongly that teachers should be appreciated today (and every day) hence what this was about – thank you for reading and liking it. I am so grateful to you

  14. Ah my friend I love your replies here. Thank you! I of course, agree. I am biased because I did teach for a while. I also see how our future generations will be nothing without teachers and yet we pay them so little and underappreciate them and pay others so much when they do so much less. It seems so unfair but such is the way of our capitalist world. I do agree that cruelty is a choice and if someone says I couldn’t help it, that is a lie. It may be hard to be good, but why would anyone sane want to be evil? I guess I don’t get it. I loved your idea of a coal vein that’s a good one! Thank you my friend thank you so much

  15. So very true my friend so very true. I feel strongly that teachers are owed more respect and value than they are presently given. WE all owe them for their mark on us, mostly positive, always more patient than most people would be! (thank you)

  16. Well it’s nice (I am teasing you of course) to be back, I have been very quiet myself…writing a little now and then but not nearly enough. Your poem got me thinking and along with other random factors helped me with my latest…that’s the third poem of the year, and no stories..not exactly Philip K Dick who could do 10,000 words a day but a little something I suppose. I am always available for a talk Feather… we can argue over writers as always.

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