September 9, 2012

Prompt: Teachers


Labor Day has passed and in the United States that means the unofficial end of summer, and back to school. There are many poems about school. After all, poets probably learned at least some of their craft in a classroom. It may have been their first exposure to poetry.

We did a writing prompt here before on what happens in the classroom. But this month, we are looking at the teacher.

Our model poem comes from the brand new collection, The Place I Call Home, by Maria Mazziotti Gillan. Her teacher, Miss Spinelli, is that teacher that we all want to have in school. I have been in classrooms all of my life as a student or teacher and if you're a teacher, it's how we want to be remembered by our students - "wrapped in a veil of shimmering light."

Miss Spinelli's classroom was one where "she carved out a space / where I could be safe" and that's a very important thing for a teacher to do. It's a plus that she read poems and encouraged a young girl to write.

Of course, not all teachers are Miss Spinelli. And not all of our memories of teachers are in shimmering light.

The Poetry Foundation collected poems about teachers and school that cover a wide range of teacher memories.

There is “The Process of Explication” by Dorothea Lasky whose teacher is less enthusiastic about teaching.

Students, I can’t lie, I’d rather be doing something else, I guess
Like making love or writing a poem
Or drinking wine on a tropical island

In “Prof of Profs”  by Geoffrey Brock, someone is a bit out of place in a poetry class.
I was a math major—fond of all things rational.
It was the first day of my first poetry class.
In “Workshop” by Billy Collins, we sit in a poetry workshop full of budding poets (some of whom will never bloom).
Maybe it’s just me,
but the next stanza is where I start to have a problem.
Maybe it’s just me,
but the next stanza is where I start to have a problem.

And “December Substitute” by Kenn Nesbitt covers the world of that most difficult of teaching positions - the substitute.
Our substitute is strange because
he looks a lot like Santa Claus.

Your own submission can can take any point of view you wish about teachers. You can view things from behind the big desk in the front of room or from the smaller desks looking at the sage on the stage. Your teacher might be a Miss Spinelli. Or not.



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