Losing Touch?

speaking of loss

i began with everything;
parents, two extra fingers
a brother to ruin. i was
a rich girl with no money
in a red dress. how did i come
to sit in this house
wearing a name i never heard
until i was a woman? someone has stolen
my parents and hidden my brother.
my extra fingers are cut away.
i am left with plain hands and
nothing to give you but poems

— Lucille Clifton


Speaking of a different kind of loss, I’m feeling out of touch with teacher-me.  I’m really struggling with a small group of my students, a group whose behavior in class is beginning to color everyone else’s experience in the classroom, a group that I actually like a lot but with whom I’m beginning to lose my patience in a way that makes me unhappy and uncomfortable.  And yes, the group is mostly young people, but not entirely.  In fact, the young people — though disruptive — have a fairly positive vibe.  It’s the 35-year-old who’s aligned himself with them who has become a negative force in the room.

I don’t like being annoyed with my students, don’t like feeling incapable of affecting any change with them, but this is exactly where I am right now.  Before spring break, I’d thought it was just a touch of burnout, my brain and body signalling the need for vacation, but it’s definitely more than that, definitely not that simple.  And the feeling of frustration isn’t helped by the fact that I had such a great experience with the teens in last week’s workshop.  Seeing how possible it is to have a group of otherwise-loud-and-seemingly-irrespressible young people focus on one thing for two solid hours and actively participate in every part of the workshop just makes me feel that much more frustrated with what’s happening in my class. 

From your window
I watch the street,
listen for cars and the slow
steady beat
of your voice, your song, the tap of your feet.
Your rhythm in my brain
a blue-burning fire, a sleet-sharp rain.


4 thoughts on “Losing Touch?

  1. molly

    sometimes you can fix it, sometimes you can’t. I know you have tried, because you wrote about them before. Every teacher, including every good teacher, is dealt a group that goes off track in some way, now and again. sometimes you can fix it. but sometimes you really can’t, you can only wait until the end of the term. I think you should take the workshop as proof of what I have just said. It’s definitely not you. I am sorry that your teacher-self has to take this battering, and I hope you will try to come out the other side without feeling too defeated. you did what you could, and more than you could. and that will have to be enough.


    1. You’re right, Molly. Sometimes there really isn’t anything I can do. But in this case, I wonder …

      I mean, I think I’m being a little unnecessarily harsh on myself to say that I’m losing touch with my ability to teach, but at the same time, I think there are things I can do to change what’s happening in class. I’ve got some new ideas for shifting the dynamic in the room. We’ll see if they work.


    1. Oh, good question, Bonnie! Not sure I can answer that one. When I’m writing them, I’m certainly not thinking about connection, but they are coming out of my head and my mood and the good and less-good teaching experiences I’ve been having, so … I don’t know. I’ll have to think about that one a little (a LOT) more!


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