They wrote about how much they hated school and how they wanted to kill me. Yes, I’m not making this up. I’m not kidding! In the very words of my student: “I want to throw a mace at her face.” Granted, “mace” was probably the only weapon type word he can think of that rhymes with “face” but still…
I had another student who described me as “There she goes again, blabbering away…” He described school as jail and homework as suffering. The poem was beautifully written, and came from a source of passion. It’s a pity that the thing that drove it was his hatred for school and me.
I had several other poems along the same lines. And I guess I kind of asked for it. No, I’m not a bad teacher. It’s just that I did ask for it, I asked them to write from a source of passion – because poetry comes from the heart. Poetry is really emotions put into words. You must feel it, in order to write it. I didn’t predict though, that their source of passion was the ultimate hatred for school. It kind of threw me – but I kept it together as much as I could.
To take it from the start… We learned about poetry a few months ago. I modeled several poems for the children and we discussed the different ways we can write poetry. To help them understand poetry a bit more, I showed them different song lyrics and explained that song lyrics are really poetry set to music. I have a group of very structural-type students, who are brilliant writers but lack creativity. I knew that the whole idea of writing poetry would make them very uncomfortable. I gave them as many examples of ways that we can use language to create the repetition and rhythmic meter needed for poetry but allowed them to pick the content themselves. Many of the girls went off and were very excited to write.
But there were a handful of boys that were just stuck. They didn’t know what to write about because, according to them, “I don’t feel passion for anything.” So I asked them to talk about what they loved. What do they enjoy doing? I made them write lists of things they live. I told them to imagine a world where they can do whatever they want. It didn’t quite work. Apparently, they didn’t like anything except computer games – and they didn’t want to write about computer games. So I tried another tactic: What do you hate? I asked them. Tell me the things you don’t like. I figured that it would probably be easier for them to write about what they dislike then what they do like. One boy’s face lit up and said: “I hate homework.” I said, “Okay, write a poem about how much you hate homework.” And it kind of took off from there. Some of them took the liberty to write about how much they hated school. I told them that in order to foster their creativity, I am not going to limit what they write about as long as they do not use swear words or target any classmates. I didn’t think, at the time, that it wasn’t classmates they disliked – it was me.
So that’s what I meant when I said “I asked for it.” Because I did. I wanted them to be free with their emotions and be creative. So I have to be able to bear the consequences of that. I honestly believe though (and this is purely a theory of mine) that their anger and emotions come from a stifled work pressure from home. Many of these children are pushed so hard with tutoring to get a scholarship into private schools. Hence, their hatred for school and anything to do with work. But they know, in their heart of hearts, that their parents are only doing it for their own good. Hence the love/hate relationship. And because they cannot take it out on their parents, they take it out on me. And I’m okay with that. After all, they trusted me enough to be able to write a candid poem about how they feel. I think I’ll take that.
I guess the only think that I’m gutted about is this question: When will these kids ever realize that what I do for them is all out of love and care? Hopefully, in 10 years time, they can look back and appreciate the fact that they were given a great education and that ultimately, I (and their parents) only wanted the best for them.