I Can Laugh, But Can You?

Your austere mood never warms,
drenched in brittle words,
distorted forms like
equestrian warriors
mounted on disease
(dangerous and flinty)

Barnacles scrape
your knees if you hit pilings
(be cautious while wading)

Today I wear stings from a
thousand angry hornets
fleeing from their nest
(unflattering jewelry)

I’ve lost a cocoon
to wrap around me
(trying to stay in tune)

They’ve polarized me
with rough phrases,
burnished tongues
breaking my exterior

I’ve drawn chalk circles
at my feet for protection
(they’ve become a blur)

I still see colourful strips
of taped vinyl on the walls

Process notes: If this sounds disturbing or a bit angry, well that is because I am in fact “disturbed and more than a bit angry”. People and their motivations are perplexing to me. Especially when they are children. Has anyone else ever felt like a fish out of water? Teaching children of privilege has many downsides. They don’t understand the word “no”, and if you grate against their world, well best to hold your breath cause surely you will drown. And a side note: I appreciate correct spelling, how about you? Now, I am even angrier after an email I just received, ugh!!!!!


39 responses to “I Can Laugh, But Can You?

  1. Yes, indeed. It seems much of the western world is now raising children to never have to hear the word ‘No’ and sadly, it is not creating a world full of nicer people as they age either.
    Sorry you’ve had to deal with some nastiness happening. It isn’t easy no matter what their ages are.
    A good, powerful vent using all the wordle words too good effect too Pamela. Hope this coming week is a much better one for you.

  2. Bren, I am so disappointed with some of my students in fourth grade. Teaching them has now become a chore and not one I am too happy about either. Tomorrow I have them for two hours, God help me!

  3. Oh Pamela, these feelings rise and they pass. You’ve expressed them beautifully…that angst and frustration, and feeling of hopelessness. Sometimes it seems like we are fighting against the very children we need to help. Teaching is a rough profession. I’ve seen your love of it shine through in your work here, too. Hang in there. You are making a difference.

  4. Brenda, I wasn’t sure I could write today. I went through my old files and found a poem which wasn’t very happy. I kept some of the phrases and created this, which does in fact suit my dour mood.

  5. i have drawn chalk circles for protection…and….Today I wear stings from a
    thousand angry hornets fleeing from their nest (unflattering jewelry) …both great lines…ugh…those that make decisions to please one will always hurt another…but for me it def comes down to their motivations…for us here it is saving money over educating children…

  6. Brian, the administration is clearly at fault here. They lie to the children leading them to believe life is all roses and no thorns. Very unwise in my humble opinion. I doubt I will return next year.

  7. I’m sorry you’ve had such a rough time of it, Pamela, but you expressed the situation very well. The line about hornets’ stings being unflattering jewelry is especially effective.

  8. Oh, I’m so sorry to hear you feel that way about not going back next year. This is a strong piece and I know what you mean from both a teacher’s perspective and a parent who is trying to raise 3 kids using the word “no” and not giving in to their beggings for iPhones and iPads, trips to Europe, etc. I’m amazed at what their peers are given these days and I see it in elementary school.

  9. Laurie, these kids are spoiled rotten and it is not doing them a bit of good. This elementary school and I am told that I shouldn’t discipline them. I suppose they should run ram-shod over me. I really prefer teaching the young adults and adults. Good thing I haven’t lost my at home base. I still teach on the weekends here at home and a couple days during the week in the evening.

  10. Strong poem, Pamela. Hopefully you will soon be out for the summer. I think it is not really the children, but the parents who either teach or allow these children to be this way. Give me the ‘average’ kid to teach any day.

  11. Mary, that is why it is so frustrating. The administration backs up the parents on these matters. I am fed up with their coddling on these matters. If a child behaves badly we are not really allowed to confront them. It is such a different world we live in now. I am not out until … July 8th, can you imagine? The kids last day is June 28th, and it seems like a lifetime right now.

  12. The last three stanzas are especially telling, Pamela.

  13. I suppose they are, Irene. I am really not looking forward to tomorrow. *sigh*

  14. I am a teacher and I understand your anger and your angst. I used to love my profession. Not any more. I feel is it worth anything? Molly coddling never helped anyone. Is it going to help our children? Future of the world?


  15. The effects of the social media awareness has made these 4th graders acting like half adults. They question, take time to nicely respond and generally meant to irritate. Teachers would have to adjust for them unlike before when it was the other way around. Patience is most needed Pam! Nice write!


  16. I just adore “I’ve drawn circles at my feel for protection” … I almost wish you would write another poem about the back-story … I can feel your rawness and your vulnerability and anger – all harbingers of those excellent ones who eventually feel compelled, propelled, impelled to leave teaching for other places… Back to the poem it is dripping with emotion and imagery and quite excellent. 🙂

  17. Pamela I can completely relate,” Teaching children of privilege has many downsides” since I moved to Atlanta 3 years ago, between pushy mothers and even worse teaching organizations I simply refuse to teach chess any longer! The concepts of strategy and problem solving are obviously not appreciated around here as demonstrated by the massive cheating scandal in local schools !! That’s why I now have so much extra time to write, which I am enjoying much more than teaching!!

  18. (((((Pamela))))) Hugs and more hugs. I once taught in a preschool where the before and after classes that shared my room where told they didn’t have to put away the things they took out!!! While I was making progress with my own charges in dealing with respect for people and things. That was one if not my first teaching job over 30 years ago – and it didn’t last because I refused to be treated like a maid for everyone else in the building. New mothers who have never had to deal with young children or infants are also a horror to work with. One mother thought her child would dehydrate in a Mother’s day out program that I worked at. So I was told by the director that I had to throw out what ever the child didn’t eat so the mother would at least believe the child had eaten or drank every thing in the half day program where the child slept half of the time away. After all the paying customer is always right, aren’t they? At least with adults and some young adults they want to learn. And these young bullies will grow up to become adult bullies.

    Thank you for your visit. More hugs and support from afar.

  19. Pamela, I like this very much. And I can absolutely relate. My colleagues and I (too often) talk about the sense of entitlement that children at our school – and their parents – have. You’ve captured that frustration so well in the images/metaphors in your poem.

    I particularly liked the chalk circles. I’ve tried to set limits, and I had one parent in particular this year who was very disrespectful of the limits I tried to set. And she kept pushing for more. I’m sorry to say we ended the year on a bad note. I need to process that in some writing for myself, so I very much appreciate your poem. It is helping me.


    • Richard, I have a sixth and fourth grade brother and sister I teach. Respectively they are both a nightmare. She is a whiny, annoying, snotty little girl. He is a nasty, disrespectful little boy. Now, it seems the mother won’t take the time to talk to me. I suppose she is angry with me.

  20. I have said before that I cannot imagine the frustration of being a teacher, much less one in the environment that you describe. I like how the title plays into the rest of the poem.

  21. Pamela, it’s really great to see someone work through anger and personal angst using poetry. Far better than physical violence. I’m glad you didn’t let them alter who you are, but came here and found a bit of release and outlet, in forming some great images in the process. Creativity is a healing energy.


  22. Sending you super sonic chalk, with special powers that you to make it through your day. I have a feeling you may need it. The situation has really given your writing for this poem great focus. Hang in there.

  23. I have arrived here late and I am guessing you have already entered the proverbial lion’s den today, Pamela. Courtesy, respect, good manners, consideration, civility: they don’t seem to exist anymore, at any level. I am sorry you have been put in this untenable position with 4th grade children. It is shocking.
    “They’ve polarized me with rough phrases, burnished tongues breaking my exterior” is a very telling stanza. Be strong, my friend.

  24. Marianne, I confronted a few of the trouble makers who threw me under the bus on Friday. One of them shocked me, as I give him extra help. I always let him know when homework is due. He is walking a thin line with the school for not completing his assignments. They’re thinking of expelling him from the school, because of this.
    Then there is a girl who about a month ago told the coordinator that I threw her out of her chair, but when she asked the class they told her it was a lie. This same girl jumped on the bandwagon Friday and said I was calling her and her classmates names. I was/am incredulous. She now is separated from her buddies in class.

  25. Honey, I could go on forever about typos; children of privilege, who have that “I’ll tell my daddy” attitude that gets them out of scrapes time and again, to no one’s benefit; and cliques in general, the “Heathers.” You must have true grit to survive teaching! I’d throttle them all by the second day!! Amy (and speaking of lessons…)

  26. Hello — just got here. Richard says it best. We have this problem all over the US and not just from wealthy kids. So many of the generations behind us carry a sense of entitlement. My mother and I talk about it often. People who feel entitled can be dangerous, so I hope that pendulum swings the other way.
    I was lucky: in the private school where I taught: the teacher was supreme, despite the wealthy kids. I had the grandson of the country’s President. I whacked him once [with love, you understand]. He reported the next day that his parents wanted to know what he had done that I felt I needed to whack him. We both laughed.
    Life is too long for you to have to do anything that makes you feel like this.

  27. Absolutely no “whacking” going on here. You can’t even touch the child’s arm to assist them out of a chair. These children make me shudder to think what they will grow up to be like.
    I am most definitely reassessing this working place. I am not happy and I don’t perform well when I am not happy. You did mean life is too short, right? 🙂

  28. A sorry tale indicative of the permissiveness of many parents now. You’ve written it so clearly with such fine delineation that it makes a superb and telling piece. Hope things improve in your profession…

I appreciate all comments.

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