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Response PLEASE!

I was asked to submit  a piece of writing for a little newsletter the All-Write Consortium is putting together.  The focuse for this issue is Why Workshop?  So I refined a poem that I think fits with the theme.  I would love some feedback before I submit it.  Here are some questions I have:

  1. Do you think it fits the theme? 
  2. I know that conventionally it should be “differently;” however, I wanted to jar the reader a bit — I wanted to make people feel unsettled . . . in the same way we often feel when we take risks in the name of good teaching in our classrooms.  I’m not sure this works though; I’m nervous that it just looks like I don’t know Standard English.  What do you think?
  3. Do you have any insights which would make this stronger?

Thanks, in advance, for your comments.

Teach Different Than They Did
By Ruth Ayres

Teach different than they did —
Stick-straight sitting
Controlled-neat printing
Always at attention.

Today they come,
Millions of experiences crammed-smashed
Into reluctant bodies —
Grumbling and moaning
Complaining and shrugging
Expecting a year like last.

Failing because they’re not —
Stick-straight sitting
Controlled-neat printing
Always at attention.

So we begin living like writers,
Come gather ’round and listen and learn
Here is my writer’s notebook,
I keep fragments of my life —
Grin-splitting giggling times
Heart-breaking tearing times
Foot-stomping burning times
Let’s collect.
And so we do.

Later, after the words have come,
I push a little.
Come gather ’round and listen and learn
You can be better.
Say something real, something that matters

Drip-sweating
Heart-wrenching
Brain-killing
Let’s revise.
And so we do.

Then in May,
Millions of experiences
free flowing, wandering the room
Out and alive because we’re not —
Stick-straight sitting
Controlled-neat printing
Always at attention.

We are a —
Wide-awake collecting
Sloppy-revising
Self-respecting
Community of writers.

Teach different than they did.

Ruth Ayres View All

Unhurried. Finding the magic in the middle of living. Capturing a life of ridiculous grace + raw stories.

9 thoughts on “Response PLEASE! Leave a comment

  1. I like “teach different” it works for me. I also like the repeat of “and so we do.” I agree with many of the comments stating your poem is more powerful than an essay. My suggestion is to consider changing “May” near the end to “tomorrow” to connect back to “today” at the beginning. Makes it a little less time bound–those students may blossom as writers before May. 😉 Well done!

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  2. I do think it fits the theme.

    I like the “you can do better” line because I think we should judge kids writing, and they should be judging it too.

    I like the suggestion of using September or October at the beginning instead of “today”, but “today” works for me too.

    At first I liked the “teach different”, but it does make different seem like a noun. Maybe “Teach different. The did it
    stick straight…etc. (I LOVE that part by the way!)

    I love that you wrote a poem that says it all in way fewer lines than an essay would have taken, and yet you really get the point across. I think you’ll get lots of readers, and re-readers.

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  3. Honestly, Ruth, I love it and it’s nothing less than what I would expect from you. I’ve always enjoyed your poetry.

    If you aren’t sure about the line “you can be better”…could you say something along the lines of “you are a writer” and then continue with say something real…because honestly if there’s no purpose to why we are writing…why are we? (other than the teacher said to).

    P.S. How long did it take you to write it? or did it come out naturally?

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  4. I’d stick with “differently.” You demonstrate your “unsettled” in the description of the classroom. As a poet, you never want the words used to get in the way of the message. As a Creative Writing graduate and teacher (before I schlepped over to English), I applaud the use of free verse to get at the free and unfettered atmosphere of your classroom experience. But as all good poets, even free verse has a purpose, a structure and a message–which I think you deliver very well.

    IMO, stanza five doesn’t really need the echo of “And so we do.” It borrows that refrain from St. 4. Try it with and without and see what you think–the poet always has the last word (until the editor gets ahold of it!)

    I enjoy your site!

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  5. Since you don’t have a predictable rhythm pattern in this, I don’t see any reason to use “different.” It does jolt me, and not for reasons that you want in this piece. Another suggestion I have is to delete the line “You can do better” because there’s nothing specific in it, and it suggests judgment of the writing. I know that wasn’t your intention, and It works well without it. And last, since you use “May” — and you want this poem to live past a blog entry — I’d like the reference near the top — “Today” — to also be a month. October?

    This is a heart-felt, fun piece. Kids will see themselves in it, and teachers will be inspired. Thanks for reaching out and doing what you do. I’m grateful that there are people out there like you, willing to use their precious little bits of time to share their passion in order to help others. Good luck!

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  6. The poem does indeed seem to fit the theme and I believe is a far more powerful statement than a typical prose document would likely be. I love the meter in your work “Straight-stick sitting/Controlled neat printing/Always at attention.” The evolution from individual to community of writers is striking.

    On the use of “different,” it works for me. Frankly, it reminds me of the Apple ads using “think different” but it’s still effective. There’s something about “teach different” that is abruptive and gives a kind of permission to play . . . exactly what you’re encouraging the kids to do in expressing themselves.

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  7. I think it fits the theme beautifully. In some ways, I think a poem like this will strike more powerfully than any traditionally written article could hope to do.

    Using different works in my mind. However, I wonder if I would feel differently if I hadn’t had your comment prefacing my reading of the poem.

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