Saturday, July 6, 2013

Questions (Poem)

I don't know if I have the hang of this blogging thing yet, but one thing I do love to do is write poetry. The majority of my poems are very personal, but this is one poem that I thought other teachers could related to. I wrote this in the middle of my third year teaching. I was a 4th grade teacher in South Carolina. I know it's long, but that's the point...

I asked him for his John Hancock
He cocked his head to the side
And said “My what?”
I smiled and replied, “Your signature.”
He giggled and grabbed the pen.
I’ll teach you who that is later this year.
“Can’t wait,” was his response.
I watched him as he signed his name
And as he paused to look at the alphabet
For how to make
A cursive capital D.
I asked her if she still was playing Churchball
She smiled with excitement and replied “Yes!”
I continued to inquire, “When’s your next game?”
“Tonight at 8:00!
My brother has a game at 9:00.”
“Wow, that’s late. Don’t they know it’s a school night?”
She giggled.
“So who do you play?”
And without hesitation
She answered
The yellow team.
I asked her why she wasn’t smiling
And she replied, “My mom got in a wreck yesterday.”
“Oh no, is she ok?”
“Yea, she has a few bruises.”
“Did she go to the hospital?”
“Yea, just to make sure she was ok.
Some lady ran a red light”
“Well I’m glad she didn’t get hurt…..”
I walk away…
            “Now everyone, take out your math….”
We check numbers 1-9.
And I teach for 45 minutes about
            “Now everyone, put your books away.” I instructed.
She raises her hand, “Yes?”
“My mom’s truck is messed up really bad.”
And I realized that it’s ok if she didn’t learn anything about
I asked him what he would be doing this coming weekend.
He said “Moving in with my new foster mom.”
As he rummaged through his book bag to find her business card,
I quickly did the math and realized this would be his third foster family
This month.
He handed me the business card and I asked,
 “Is your younger sister still going to live with you?”
“Yea, we have to stay together
It’s a
Court Order.”             

I asked them if they knew what the Middle Passage was
They all said “No.”
So, I asked them to close their eyes
To visualize
As I read:
The part of the slave’s journey aboard the ship between Africa and the American colonies is known as the Middle Passage. Africans were imprisoned as cargo and chained below decks. These conditions often forced them to lie in human waste. They received very little food or exercise while aboard the slave ships. Many slaves did not survive the Middle Passage.
I stopped reading and told them to open their eyes
There was silence for a long time
And then he blurted out,
“Is this the last day we’ll be talking about slavery?”
“Yes.” I answered.
And he replied,
“Good, I hate talking about
Then, I asked them to open their notes
And she raised her hand
“Why did they bring escargot?
Isn’t that snails?”
I looked at her confused.
And she was too.
I looked back down at the passage.
And read,
“The Africans were imprisoned AS CARGO.”
“Ohhhhh” she replied.
But she was right, escargot are

I asked her what she meant
When she wrote the following sentence:
“I want a agent so bad, I could clog up the schools toilet.”
I gave her a few seconds,
but she had no
I asked them what they would do if they won
1,000 dollars.
Their eyes lit up and their hands shot up
“Cell phones, computers, and PSP’s” were the normal responses
And then I called on her and she said:
“I would give half to The Humane Society
And half to my great-aunt’s
Nursing Home.”
I asked him why it was taking him so long
And I told him to focus
I told him to move his desk to the left so he would have space.
I told him to hurry up.
I asked him why it was taking him so long.
He brought me his paper
And after 30 minutes
He was only on #3,
But numbers 1 and 2 were
I asked him where his Science Fair permission form was
He replied, “Mommy said I can’t do one.”
I told him he had to or he would fail the assignment.
He didn’t care and he walked away.
Later that day we thought of an idea together
And he was excited.
The next day I asked him for his Science Fair permission form
He handed it to me smiling.
He pointed to the bottom.
It was

I asked a group of students what they were doing
When I walked in the gym
And they responded “Relay Races.”
I saw one getting out of hand
But the sub was distracted.
So I yelled for them to line up.
He balled up his fists and screamed.
Everyone looked at him.
And I called out his name.
One classmate even put his arm around him
And told him it was alright.
Later that day I asked him what happened,
Why he responded that way.
And he said he was

I asked them what they wanted to play
For indoor recess.
She always had the same answer.
“Around the world” –
(A multiplication game.)
So I put some on the computers,
Others in a group to play charades
And the rest could play
Around the world – together.
I watched them as they played.
And when someone got the answer wrong
She would always say
“That’s ok, good try!”
I told them to stay seated but
She kept jumping up and down
And that was ok
Because it was just

I asked her to read to me.
And she said the words almost flawlessly.
I asked her to summarize what she read
And she told me every detail.
I explained to her the difference between details
And the main idea.
So I asked her again to summarize what she read.
And again she told me every

I asked her what this was
This paper she handed me
She answered “A rap I wrote for American Idol.”
I smiled and started to read….
            “My heart breaks, breaks, breaks, I miss you so much.”
I paused.
“Who is this about?” I asked.
“My uncle.”
I continued to read….
            “I will always remember you taking us to the park. I wish you were not dead.”
She scratched the first part out.
“Honey when did your uncle die?”
“I don’t know, a long time ago. I was 8, well maybe 9.”
“Aren’t you 10 right now?”
“Did he die when you were in 3rd grade?”
“Honey, do you mind if I ask how he died?”
She raised her eyes and said, “He got shot.”
I told her how sorry I was
And that I’m sure he was happy she wrote this “rap” for him
But words didn’t really matter at that point
As the announcements played in the background,
I put my arm around her
And hugged her as she

I asked her to slow down
And told her that Pilgrims, Plymouth, Powhatan and Pocahontas
Were proper nouns so they all should be…..
“Capitalized” she said when I paused.
I called her Speedy Gonzalez and
She laughed as she erased all 4 p’s
Then, she asked me why Pocahontas’
Wasn’t spelled “s apostrophe s”
And I admitted to her that
Both are correct,
And I admitted to myself that
She actually had been

I asked them to get out their math books
I reviewed with them where to find question 1
Because I knew they would be confused.
“The question is above the bold black line.”
I paused and repeated.
“The question is above the BOLD BLACK LINE.”
I called for them to pack up and one student approached me.
“Where is question 1 on the math homework?
I turned and looked at the class
And then he piped up
Right on cue
Teeth clenched
Mocking me to a tee
“She said…It was above the BOLD BLACK LINE.”
And the classroom filled with

I asked them if they smelled it.
It smelled musty or like something was on fire.
They all said no.
So I continued to teach.
Later in the lesson, I realized it was coming from one of the student’s book bags.
And I hoped that no one caught on.
Later in the day she approached me and said,
“You know how you smelled something earlier?
Well I think it’s my book bag.
I’m pretty sure my dog peed on it last night.”
The next day she came in
With a different
Book bag.

I asked her if her bus had been called.
She said no.
So I told her to sit down and talk with the other students.
They all began telling made up stories.
She started,
“Once upon a time, there was a girl
Named Little Black Riding Hood
And that’s me
‘cause I’m

I asked her to choose a quote for tomorrow’s
“Quote of the Day.”
She looked over the list and chose:
“Attitude determines altitude.”
As she wrote the quote in perfect handwriting,
I asked her if she knew what “altitude” meant.
She answered, “Doesn’t that mean how high something is.”
I knew she would be right, she normally is.
We discussed the importance of the quote.
That your attitude will determine how much you succeed.
The quote was perfect for her.
She has such an incredible attitude.
She’s so thoughtful, kind, generous, understanding, patient.
She may be only ten, but I admire
Her attitude.

I asked him if he grabbed his lunchbox
He didn’t.
Then I asked him if he had his jacket, agenda, and….
His head.
He nodded and laughed.
He always laughs when I ask him if he has
His head.

I asked her why she didn’t ride the bus this morning
She said “My dad didn’t want me to wait in the cold.”
“Well that was nice of him, he must love you.” I responded.
She shook her head in agreement and asked,
“Do you know who else he loves?…
My mom.”

It is said that teachers ask 300-400 questions a day.
The above were some of the ones
That I asked

-Feb. 1, 2009

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