A Poem, Perhaps

Years ago, in a small classroom I taught
Seven-year-olds, smart and adorable.
I read poetry aloud, funny and sweet,
But teaching poetry to write? Horrible!

I loved teaching all subjects, 3 R’s included,
But I, a poet? Am not!
And as you know, those second graders insisted
On using words like “booger” and “snot.”

Word families were easy; rhyming, a cinch!
But writing in verse is much harder.
“Just try it,” I said. “Keep on writing!” I begged,
“Your brains will grow so much smarter!”

So when this week’s topic for Spin Cycle I read,
My heart went a-flutter. “I can’t do it!” I cried.
On second thought, I recalled what I taught to those kids,
My own advice I should take, so I tried.

This poem you’re reading is my second attempt,
Please, please, don’t tease me or taunt.
If you’re graciously reading this post to the end,
Comment, and your own poetry skills flaunt!

Here is a poem written by one of my second graders, long ago. She is probably in college by now. We were using an observation chart to help us write poems for this lesson.

I like to swing.
When I swing I see clouds in the sky.
I hear birds singing.
I feel good when I swing.
By Cierra

I Was Wrong

When I was teaching second grade a few years ago, a parent asked me how she could prepare her daughter for college. I don’t remember my response, but I probably talked about reading comprehension and problem solving. I do remember thinking that this mother was a little neurotic for being concerned about college when her daughter was only seven. Turns out I was wrong.

Research titled The Forgotten Middle was released last Wednesday by ACT. This study reported that many 8th graders are not academically prepared for college, and that high school is not enough time to prepare students. “What we’re saying is college and career readiness is a process that includes high school but is not exclusively a high school issue. It’s a K-12 issue,” the president of ACT’s education division Cyndie Schmeiser reports.

It’s hard to admit that I was wrong; and I can see now how certain skills I taught in second grade can prepare students for college. At the suburban school where I taught, every new teacher to the district went through the mentoring program, no matter how much experience she had. I had already been teaching eleven years when I was hired, but the instruction techniques I learned in math, reading and science during my year of mentoring were wonderful additions to my repertoire. Every teacher had to be part of study groups and in-school workshops, and that helped us stay in touch with the latest research. All this talk about college preparation may seem contradictory to the post I wrote about play, but these instructional techniques aren’t drill, drill, drill. They are about using seminars, guided groups, and journals as valuable teaching techniques. Play definitely has its place! Even though it’s a few years away, when I read about new educational research, I get excited about reentering the classroom.