Sunday, February 25, 2007

Caged in the Hairball

"If we are to achieve the quantum leaps the future seems to be demanding of us, we must risk to leave our containers-turned cages and find grace to dance without stepping on toes. . . Many of us choose security over freedom to such an extreme that we confine ourselves and profoundly limit our experience of life. Maximum safety, minimum existence."
Gordon MacKenzie, Orbiting the Giant Hairball

"I want you to be smart in the same way—but for what is right—using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you'll live, really live, and not complacently just get by on good behavior."
Luke 16:8b (Msg)

Ok, so this post just couldn't inspire true poetry--one of the side effects of the hairball, I suppose.

There are certain parts of my job that I love ... namely, the students.

I want my actions,my words,my promises,my life to scream to them "You matter! You are not an accident! You are not someone's second thought. Someone's punching bag. Someone's scapegoat for their own lost dreams. You have a reason for existing and a part to play in the good and beautiful side of this world. The sky's the limit . . . "

But my voice competes with the scent of prison and the slow-marching beat of mediocre expectations that snakes through the halls of public school. Where they feel like another filled desk, another word on a faceless roster, another bad kid waiting to get caught, another ID bar code to scan in the lunch line, when all we are is dust in the wind ...

I've always been the good kid, the straight A over achiever who got pats on the back for maturity, freedom and trust that was earned by consistent accomplishment, but for some reason, at this school, I am now the bad kid. The rebel, The artistic free thinker. The one to "keep on eye on". (twilight zone music playing)

When you walk in my room,
I see structured, student-led creativity and box-breaking productivity.
The powers that be see chaos.
Maybe I should put them in rows and talk them to sleep ...
I see kids teaching kids by thinking beyond abercrombie and myspace.
Poetry of the teenage mind.
They see noise.
Maybe I should pass out worksheets
and have them spit back out the spoon-fed facts I toss at them.. .
I see adrenaline pumping discussion
that tills the soil for me to plant some character education.
They see frivality. Get to the point. Stick to academia.
Why should I teach them first how to read and write
if they have nothing worthwhile to read and write about?
I see awake and engaged treasures from heaven
colliding and crashing into one another like firework finales.
They ask why the kid in the back was tapping his pencil during the discussion.
That's how he thinks, that's evidence of challenge, a spark.
I would take pencil-tapping over glazed eyes any day.

Lord, God, I'm tangled up, feeling trapped, smothered
wondering if my voice is heard though all this mess,
do they know how much You and I truly love them,
no matter what the hairball of the system
or the conveyer belt of society keeps pumping in front of them?

Give me strength, Guide my every action.
If Paul can sing in prison,so can I.


Anonymous said...

I have a feeling sometime in the future, you will be receiving Teacher of the year for your amazing teaching tactics.:)

Anonymous said...

well you have made my morning. This piece was poignant. I like it.

Anonymous said...

From one teacher extraodriaire to another:

How can you doubt? You dedicate your poetry to One who speaks to us in whispers -- in stillness, in quiet, amidst confusion and storms. You trust and feel the unfailing love of One who overcomes the chasms of human failure. You have been given a gift -- the gift to see wroth in lives that have been essentially written off. You find their unique abilities, talents, and voice. You may grow weary by the "powers that be" but never doubt the Giver of that gift.

Sherry Ingle said... son is going through a similar struggle as he attempts to encourage journalistic expression among his student journalists yet not ruffle any feathers with the administration...God will bless your efforts and your passion for teaching and your students...Hang in there!!!

Anonymous said...


I never cease to be amazed by your talent and the strength of your devotion to your students. Girlfriend, you bring tears to my eyes.

Having the privilege of meeting some of your "pencil-tappers", seeing how they responded to your guidance that day and hearing from their own mouths what you mean to them.... Never doubt that you are teaching and reaching them just exactly the way you're supposed to.

Trust me, through the years, you are the one that they will remember - with fondness. The "powers that be" probably won't even tickle their memories!


Sarah Koutz said...