A Call To Teach

They set up classrooms in malls,
call them “alternative”, cater to
those who have fallen through
proverbial cracks, teens unfit
for institutional learning…

I was wayward once, could not
value education while teenage
angst pushed me overboard –
home life too quixotic for
reasonable expectations of
comportment …

My heart reaches out
to those displaced, for whom
common curriculum does not gel –
I long to meet with them on concrete
benches, over cups of Tim Horton’s
lending a sympathetic ear…

School is not the defining moment
the last stop before our final destination;
it is a stepping stone, one of many paths
that lead to discovery, to definition,
troubled souls crave soothing…

maybe, if I could light a torch
for just one child, build a bridge
of hope, the girl in me would be
quieted, reassured, healed –
validation ensuring a future for all.

(Image: classroom.synonym.com)


Educational Lapse

Confess, I am a proponent
of life as education, and would love
to expand on the lesson at hand,
but haven’t made the morning class yet
as consciousness and I have no early rising
agreement, and higher learning
involves climbing, and
staircases are out
at the moment

so even if the term
is in progress, I lack essential
energy to aspire to enlightenment
and I appreciate that you have prayed
for me, and Mary and her Son
may have inspired motivation,
but without working memory
directions are lost –
I could guess

at a destination,
would likely discover that
my aim has been off base,
could pretend I am gleaning
reams of information from the process,
just to appease higher-ups, but healing
is what I really need, not learning,
and help finding those elements
of self that others

have come to depend on
and now grieve, and if life is
education, then my time is fading
and as day gives over to darkness,
I’ve found my bed beside
the ocean of consciousness
calling me to another cause.

Eccentricity Counts

Professors may make strange bedfellows,
but originality does engage young minds;
ideology while exciting, repels intuition;
and doing well is not about belonging,
it is acknowledgment and reward received.

Listen to me, I am lost, begging for do-overs.
Superiority is a goal for some, while I retreat
into leisure, begin losing awareness, am an odd
gatherer, keeper of underdeveloped knowledge,
gushing creativity, and injecting limitations.

If I could meld empathy, follow unbeaten
paths, inform myself afresh, I’d be bloated
with enthusiasm, pregnant with progress,
but my outlook, like moss, is humble: I am
outcast, marginalized, insignificant…

Projecting discomfort into materialism,
may once have been healthy, now initiating
death by unconscious eating: a human sponge.
Instructing once fueled me –  my passion
eclectic, as all good teacher should be.

What remedies will persuade those who have
forgotten the way, are numbed.
What new dawn will force feed us out of this
resignation, instill pursuit of higher knowing,
ignite a quest for empowerment?

(Image from pinterest.com)

Always a Teacher

Set me on the open road,
encourage me to cross borders;
I am hungry for knowledge,
to hear a higher calling.

Cannot tolerate chained-to-
chairs education, imposed
immobility, socratic hierarchy
demanding conformity

spoon-fed compliance –
am too much my father’s
daughter, born rebellious
unable to mold myself
to prescribed slots

would rather initiate
discussion, engage, listen –
let shoes emote, tell their
story, develop compassion

never felt more than a visitor
in institutions, marks adequate
but brain absent, spirit numbed –
more punishment for delinquency
than awakening..

How can we convey the future,
instill optimism in prospects,
when the language of education
is secondary to how students
communicate in real-time?

Minds are energetic, curiosity
a given, youth crave elevation,
opportunity, measure themselves
against a system defined by rows.

How can I cross this barrier
of disability, open the dialogue
to ignite passions, propel learning
to open road scenarios, encourage
minds to cross borders?

(Image: www.abc.net.au)

Learning Disabled

Really want to be gainfully
engaged, embrace learning
but disability is in charge,

like an uneducated thug,
skulking behind my back,
sneering at my attempts

to demonstrate capability.
I am slow processing,
easily distracted, socially

driven, control slipping,
botching efforts to show
potential, suspect that

disability, the hard-headed
tough guy that he is, revels
in my failure, despising me.

(image from: www.greatschools.org)

Residential Horrors

This place is both school and residence,
where I have come to live and work –

‘Live’ is a stretch – these old walls hold
secrets, tension dissuading recreation.

The work is meant to be education, but
survival seems to be what we are learning,

the students and I, shivering in the isolation
of this cold setting – fields of rolling green

within our view torment us – the open air
as inaccessible as the homes we long for.

Inside, the heat is stifling and the constant
clatter of keys and rustle of gowns, starched

and unforgiving, remind us of the permanency
of our stay – perhaps, I am just too young,

too fresh to be a teacher here – have visited
this place before in the dream time, known

it’s horrors, am all too awake now, certain
that the hidden places exist, that evil lives

within these walls, is watching us, waiting –
have seen movement behind shutters, where

none was warranted, heard breathing at the
grates in the baseboard, am skin-crawling

paranoid, everywhere eyes, ears, but no voices.
All too afraid to speak – two children are missing.

The authorities have investigated; say the girl
ran off with some fellow, and that the boy went

home, but I know this not true – runners are brought
back and punished into submissions, and home is

not an option – something sinister is at work – my
heart aches.  She was such a bright child, optimistic,

despite oppression, a light in our days, I cannot imagine
where she would have run to other than her own demise,

uncharacteristic really.  And he, tall and strong – a silent
oak among us, gentle and peaceful – he endured much;

why is he suddenly gone?  I cannot stand by, and let this
happen, must investigate – will myself to pry the grate

loose, peer beyond into the murky space below – spy
concrete, a warehouse like cellar – a single light bulb

burning in a corner, interrogation style. I shudder, am
compelled to learn more, search for an entrance,

encounter locked doors, my paranoia peaking – there
is movement – a man emerging from the horrid depths

an authority figure;  I sigh with relief – I am not alone
in my suspicions – those in charge are on the case.

(photo from globalnews.ca)

For My Teacher Friends

Reward none, if you can’t reward all,
critics say, education should be fair.

Encourage positive behaviour only,
acknowledge accomplishments period.

Treat all children the same, equally;
it is unfair to let only a few shine.

Resources are limited, make do.
Why aren’t you giving more of yourself?

The attacks are personal, guilt real.
Teachers need protection, not blame.

Disability’s Rant

It’s not that I’m not open
to new perspectives –
I am aware of daylight
beyond these walls –
conscious that mine is
not the only viewpoint.

It’s just that the inflexibility
of this existence is unrelenting,
and I have come to see opposing arguments
in the bleak morbidity of aging –
am having doubts about the willingness
of skilled, principled, professionals
whose rigorous platforms require
energetic, sheltered, regard.

I am lacking confidence
in my ability to articulate –
sanitizing personal inkling,
disinfecting institutional

What lesson have I signed up for?
How is it I’ve found myself,
mired in sterility,
shrouded in grey,
an unwitting student
in my own life?


Chasing Success

“With your mathematical aptitude, you should consider a career in accounting.” My guidance counselor has called me in for an interview concerning my post-secondary plans.

You should be the Treasurer for a large corporation, I hear my father echoing.

“I am not interested in math.”  Blunt.

The counselor leans back in his chair, drops his pen, and runs his fingers through his thinning hair.

“And what would it be that does interest you?”

“Children.  I want to work with children.  I was thinking maybe as an Early Childhood Educator.”

He picks up my report again.

“Your grades indicate you can do much better.  How about psychiatry?  This aptitude test you completed also suggests this is a good field for you.”

“Maybe, but I’d rather be a teacher.”

“Not many people have your academic capabilities.  You can potentially be very successful.”

I can feel myself shutting down.  How many times have I been through this?

* * *

I am eight years old, and the school has called my parents for a meeting with the teacher, Principal, and a woman from the Board office who has been conducting tests.

“We want to accelerate your daughter,”  the woman explains.  “Testing shows that she is gifted, and we believe her educational needs would be better served by sending her to a different school, where she will be with peers of her intellectual equal.”

I sit in the room, like a fly on the wall, and listen as the adults passionately discuss my future.  The educators clearly have the upper hand – they are talking about what they know.  My uneducated parents (neither attended school beyond grade eight) are clearly out of their element – my mother worried, my father not knowing what to think.  He turns to me.

“What do you want to do?”

“Go to the new school.”  It is easy for me.  I am game for adventure.  Success is miles away; not something I need worry about now.

* * *

“We called this meeting to discuss V.J.’s course selection for high school.”

My mother has come alone this time, and as usual, is daunted by the professionals that sit before her.

“What seems to be the problem?”

“As you are aware, V.J. has signed up for Art next year.”


“I won the Art award this year.”

“That is all well and good, V.J. , but you are an academic student, and while Art has its merits, it is not a course of study recommended for a student of your caliber.  We would like you to consider taking something more in line with your future success.”

I drop Art.

* * *

“What do you want to do with your life?”  my mother asks on the way home.

“I don’t know, Mom.  There is really only one thing I’ve ever wanted and that’s to be married with children.”

“I don’t know, Veej,” my mother shakes her head.  “Men don’t like smart women, and from everything the school says, you could be much more successful.”

“Yeah, and alone, right Mom?”

“Well, I just can’t see who will put up with you, to be honest.”

* * * *

“Why are you here?  Not why are you here in this group, at this moment, but why are you here in University, studying psychology, or whatever other major you have signed on for?  Who are you serving by being here – yourself, or your parents?”

The group is mandatory group therapy, part of our first year Psychology credit.  Lead by a tall pear-shaped woman, with long stringy blond hair, and a gangly young man with a blonde beard.  Psychologists.

The question makes me uncomfortable, because to be honest, I don’t know the answer.

“I used to think I knew what I wanted,” I answer, “but my life feels like it’s always a game of tug-of-war, with me at one end and everybody who knows better at the other.”

“Go on,” the woman encourages.  “Tell us why you feel that way.”

“Well, I feel like there are things I could do with my life, you know, worthwhile things, and at the same time, all I really aspire to is normalcy – if that makes any sense.  I mean, my mother certainly didn’t want me to be here; she thinks it’s a waste of a woman’s time to get an education, but my father, he’s kind of proud of me, and I like that….”   I am rambling, not even sure where I’m going with this.

“My parents want me to be educated,” another student pipes in.  “They say that you can’t be successful without it.”

“But what does that mean?” the lanky leader questions.  “How do you define, success?”

“Exactly,” I continue.  “Are we ever successful when we follow someone else’s script for us?  Or is rebellion the only answer?”

“Rebellion can be self-destructive.”

“No doubt, but if we follow our own path, isn’t that what we are doing?”

“How about you?” the woman turns the conversation over to another, and before I can speak further the class is over, but the questions linger with me.

They linger on into the next week and the week after that, and by April, I have made my decision:  I am not here for the right reasons.

I drop out and get married.

And ‘success’, or any concept of success becomes even more elusive.

Divorce follows within two years, and I realize that maybe my mother was right:  maybe I am not loveable.

I jump in again, this time more committed; this time bearing three children and feeling a semblance of completion.

And it ends, and I am alone again, and broke and struggling, and I begin to wonder if others really did know what was best for me after all.  And as a divorced mother of three, I definitely know that had I pursued higher education and a more suitable career the struggles would be lessened, and I would at least have financial security.

I never really have defined success for myself, apart from wanting happiness, and maybe this has been the problem.

What is your concept of success?