Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Daughter came home from Fifth Grade yesterday to tell me that her teacher had said, "I don't know WHY you have to learn which syllables are stressed. You'll NEVER have to use it."

Watch Suisan fall to the floor, writhe in agony, and then leap to her feet to sprint for the poetry collections.

Have I mentioned that I don't hold her Fifth Grade teacher in the highest regard?

Why do kids learn about haikus in First grade, cinquains in Second and Third grades, and then never look at poetry ever again until college? Do teachers not read poetry? In class? At home? EVER? And where the hell does the Fifth Grade teacher get off telling a class of 32 kids to dismiss an entire topic because she can't be bothered to spend a sec on rhyme and meter? Oooh. She gets right under my skin. (OK, enough about her. I think she's not the brightest light in the closet, so it makes it hard for me to respect her. I usually just ignore her if I can.)

But Daughter and I did read some Elizabeth Bishop, some Auden, and some Billy Collins, all of which I thought had pretty simple word choices, so we could talk about why a poem called "Sleeping" might sound different than a poem called "Marching." Daughter was suitably intrigued.

And because I cannot help myself, here's an Elizabeth Bishop from North & South, 1946.

Sleeping Standing Up

As we lie down to sleep the world turns half away
through ninety dark degrees;
the bureau lies on the wall
and thoughts that were recumbent in the day
rise up as the others fall;
stand up and make a forest of thick-set trees.

The armored cars of dreams, contrived to let us do
so many a dangerous thing,
are chugging at its edge
all camouflaged, and ready to go through
the swiftest streams, or up a ledge
of crumbling shale, while plates and trappings ring.

--Through turret-slits we saw the crumbs or pebbles that lay
below the riveted flanks
on the green forest floor,
like those the clever children placed by day
and followed to their door
one night, at least; and in the ugly tanks

we tracked them all the night. Sometimes they disappeared,
dissolving in the moss,
sometimes we went too fast
and ground them underneath. How stupidly we steered
until the night was past.
and never found out what the cottage was.

Edited to add--the indents on the poem are not showing up--it looks more beautiful on the page when it's foramtted correctly. Sorry Mrs. Bishop.


CW said...

I don't think I like this fifth grade teacher, either. :P I recall teachers reading Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak, and Shel Silverstein to us in grade school...

Megan Frampton said...

I'm not a big fan of poetry, but I wouldn't discount the whole genre because I don't like it...Isn't it incumbent on a teacher to teach, even if it's not your thing?

Good for you for showing your daughter some good examples.

Fickle Fiona said...

Oh my, that is three times in as many days where my peers have pissed me off.

You know Suisan, I find that teachers tend to belittle the curriculum when they don’t ‘get it’ themselves.

Here are two websites that I have used to reintroduce (how sad is that? reintroduce?) poetry to my own students:
The students really tend to enjoy the funny poems. I vaguely remembered a poem that I had read by Nesbitt. I went fishing and found it! How appropriate…

-I Have To Write A Poem-
I have to write a poem
but I really don't know how.
So maybe I'll just make a rhyme
with something dumb, like "cow."

Okay, I'll write about a cow,
but that's so commonplace.
I think I'll have to make her be...
a cow from outer space!

My cow will need a helmet
and a space suit and a ship.
Of course, she'll keep a blaster
in the holster on her hip.

She'll hurtle through the galaxy
on meteoric flights
to battle monkey aliens
in huge karate fights.

She'll duel with laser sabers
while avoiding lava spray
to vanquish evil emperors
and always save the day.

I hope the teacher likes my tale,
"Amazing Astro Cow."
Yes, that's the poem I will write
as soon as I learn how.
--Kenn Nesbitt

This other site was created by Scholastic. It covers structure/technique, descriptive words, and *tah-dah* rhyme and rhythm. Jean Marzollo’s Spy riddles are interesting.

Sorry, I apparently forgot to leave the teacher at work today.


Suisan said...

Well, this teacher has a habit of spouting off and making dismissive comments. The kids like her because she's sarcastic, but she rubs me the wrong way. Yeah, I know. I'm sarcastic too. Go figure.

To her credit, I don't think she was dismissing poetry outright, but it did not OCCUR to her that knowing the stressed syllables might have a use. As in, if you ever wanted to write poetry or read it aloud. She never made the connection. Humph. Typical dismissive crap.

Tara Marie said...

How fun is that poem Fiona quoted.

I'm printing it out to read to my son, he'll love it. My husband writes a Seuss style poem every year for my son's birthday, they're wonderful and special.

So many children's books require an understanding meter, rhyming and which syllables to stress, how could a teacher not understand this?

Pat Kirby said...

I remember in first grade, a classmate and I were arguing about whether camels had actual water sloshing around in their humps. I said, "No, it's not water. It's fat."

Anyway, the other kid said we should ask the teacher. The idiot teacher's response? "Yes. They have water in their humps."

*Headdesk* Thud.

The majority of my experience with teachers proceeded in that manner for the next twelve years, only to be reinforced when I went to grad school. My worst students in the intro science classes I taught? Education Majors. The absolute worst. I don't care if you aren't interested in science. If you are supposed to be going on to teach young people, you should display a modicum of interest in learning--everthing. A brain would be nice too.

I know there are some terrific teachers out there, but I'm not impressed with the majority.

Suisan said...

Yeah, Pat. Then there's the argument I had with my second grade teacher who insisted that Ponies were young Horses. I tried pointing out that you can have pony colts which only grow up to be ponies, but she would not listen to me.

I stopped talking to her entirely until my mother was called in to the principal's office.

(And please don't get me started on the other students taking Ecology as a Core requirement. That professor had us cranking out population genetics formulas, and the Lib Arts gals just wanted to talk about Gaia, the Earth mother.)

And Fiona, I love the poem too :)

Tara, I think if you laid the connection out for her, she would get it--but I don't think it occured to her to question why the topic of stressed syllables ever showed up in her lesson plan.

Jay said...

Wait, so it's not water? Huh. The things you learn...

Jay said...

Oh, I did know about the ponies though. Or at least it never occured to me to think that ponies were just baby horses. lol

Suisan said...

Jay, hot water.... Hee hee. :)

Favorite pony related bon mot: at the circus Mr Oaf, a clown, used to bring a small group of children behind the yellow fence for a behind the scenes tour. He used to point out the horses, and the grooms, and then he'd turn to the ponies to exclaim, "Oh No! Did you put the horses in the dryer Again!?!" We had a few inner city kids who were a touch baffled.

I'm such an easy laugh--I chuckled every time.

Anonymous said...

Best regards from NY! Wattage for coffee makers Home security monitoring atlanta ga Trio lesbianas jovencitas golf clubs free perfume sample Zoloft with no prescription Inpotent impotence consultations Computer boot-up worms yasmin