Making my list and checking it twice …

i am accused of tending to the past
as if i made it,
as if i sculpted it
with my own hands. i did not.
this past was waiting for me
when i came,
a monstrous unnamed baby,
and i with my mother’s itch
took it to breast
and named it
she is more human now,
learning language everyday,
remembering faces, names and dates.
when she is strong enough to travel
on her own, beware, she will.

— Lucille Clifton


Today was mostly good.  Not as smooth and coordinated as yesterday, but not a total bust, either (no, my new student from Tuesday didn’t show … we’ll see what happens with him next week).  I’ve been trying to pinpoint the particular things that change the mood in the class, and I’ve got a list growing:

  • Tania — who doesn’t come consistently enough to be familiar with any of the work we’re doing, but who needs to stir up drama or silliness any time she’s in the room.
  • Ronald — who is angry and frustrated by his struggle to find a living-wage job, to navigate the various systems that seem to have collaborated to make his life difficult and who brings his anger into the classroom via flashing outbursts, not-quite-under-his-breath snide comments, and dismissive sighing and eye-rolling in response to every activity we work through.
  • Carlene — who is incapable of sitting for more than 14 seconds without sending or reading a text and who (in between texts) has no ability to filter any of the thoughts that come into her head before she lets them out of her mouth.
  • Joseph — who suffers from the same texting sickness that aflicts Carlene and adds to that playing music on his phone loudly enough that I can hear it from the hallway and who talks almost non-stop about anything but what we’re working on in class.
  • Elias — who comes to class with both his anger and his elation, both of which play out disruptively in our room (just imagine, please, the day after he visited his first, and I quote, “titty bar”).

Great list, eh?  Yeah, so there’s some work to do.  Big time.  I’ve got some plans.  I was able to spend some time after class plotting out the logistics of some possible changes.  We’ll see if any of them make for positive differences.

What I said
and what it meant
meet on the tangled thread
of my logic.  Can you be content
if the pieces spin and fragment,
if my point — thick, cornfed —
misses its mark but moves ahead?


6 thoughts on “Making my list and checking it twice …

  1. molly

    now WHO could deal with all of that in one classroom.
    Are they “man” enough to put their phones on the front desk for the duration of the class?
    Wow, my teaching life sounds like a piece of cake.

    I like the concept behind your poem a lot. I’m not too sure about “cornfed”, not too sure even what it means. How about something with “head”, a thick head or a heavy, a tired head. I suppose it’s not well or ill bred. Is it said in some way? roughly said, perhaps. I can see what you mean about rhyming and how it risks making things sing-songy.


    1. It is a lot in one group, it’s true. But it’s also not so unusual for a GED class. There’s just something about this particular mix of students and my teaching style that isn’t coming together.

      I hear you about ‘cornfed.’ I wanted it, though, liked the idea of my thoughts being big and healthy but dull and unsophisticated. I’m definitely still fighting the rhyme. Last night I actually changed the form and the rhyme scheme without noticing until I had nearly finished the poem! And I think that’s my resistance to the enclosure of the rhyme.


  2. I think that the mix of context prose and then the poem is an interesting way to write.
    This poem for me
    What I said
    and what it meant
    meet on the tangled thread
    of my logic. Can you be content
    if the pieces spin and fragment,
    if my point — thick, cornfed –
    misses its mark but moves ahead?

    gets to an important complexity within the mind of the teacher. You work with a difficult clientel, filled with their issues and you as the teacher can’t leave yourself behind in the day-to-day hills and valleys. So I’m loving this form that you are taking on Stacie.


    1. Thanks, Bonnie. This month’s posts have been a bit curious for me. Titles that relate more to the post than the poetry, a Clifton poem that doesn’t relate to the post at all, my rhyme royal that may or may not have anything to do with the post … A lot of confusion! It’s been interesting putting all the pieces together, however!


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