I wrote these poems while teaching history over the past thirty-three years at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, in Sudbury, Massachusetts.
Here are the punctuation marks of a teacher’s career: those moments in the classroom that remain after thousands of other hours have fallen away, including one golden morning in autumn when my students asked me to turn out the lights; the Holocaust and other important anniversaries faithfully commemorated; our great field trip adventures; the departure of a beloved colleague; a student stricken by AIDS; my commuting memories; poems and projects inspired by the history I was teaching. Once I found myself summoned to the “jury holding room” at the very same courthouse where Sacco and Vanzetti were convicted–and this while I was teaching about the case in school. Things like that happened.
There were also those memories that I’d have preferred to forget: the many lessons that failed, leaving the class lying like a dead beast at my feet; the frequent doubting of my own abilities as a teacher (Was the material tedious? Was I boring? Was it the week-long rain? Or was it just a Monday deep in March?); dealing with the annual avalanche of recycled, faddish reforms whose mumbo-jumbo “educate-ese” promised to revolutionize the classroom; the intra-departmental and faculty debates in which I was wounded and wounded others, all because we cared a little too much and because we were human.
I have been fortunate to teach at a school that dared to be different if it meant educating students in a deeper, more meaningful way. I’ve been lucky to work alongside colleagues whom I deeply respect. They are dedication writ large. And my students? How fortunate I was to meet them. They taught me how to become a teacher. They got me out of bed on many a tired morning.
If these are not your kind of poems, think of this as my journal. For better or worse, these were my thoughts, perceptions, and visions as I moved my way through a third of a century in the classroom. It was a drama in continuous performance, with no intermissions or audience. We were all cast. The plot was about the life of the mind, but also the state of the heart, and the siren call of memory. There was note-taking and singing songs; there was making-believe and having fun, and occasionally a breaking through to something beyond grades and homework; there was me, trying to keep it real; there was...
OK, enough…here are the poems.