Notes from the Dark Side of the Classroom

Parent/Teacher Conferences and Stuff

Parent: As long as _______’s grade is good, you and I will be fine.                                   Me: You mean you and _______, right?
Parent: No, we’re always fine.
Me: 😐

Parent: Why does _________ have that grade?
Me: Have you checked grades online?
Parent: No.
Me: Do you have __________ log into the classroom so you can check assignments?
Parent: No.
Me: Let’s ask __________.
Student: I didn’t do all my work.
Parent: Why did _________ not do all his work?
Me: 😐

Parent: I don’t know why _________ sleeps in your class.
Little sister: I know why!
Me: Really? Why?
Little sister: He goes to his girlfriend’s house every night.
Parent: 😬
Me: 😐


If the Walls Could Talk

She was angry. Nothing unusual about that. Most teenagers are angry about something.
She wrote a poem. That was unusual. This angry girl did not seem like the poetry-writing type.

I now know there’s no such thing as a poetry-writing type.

Felix, for instance, was no Dunbar. He was no Tupac, either. But he wrote poetry.
…I scream to the top of my lungs
But there’s no one to hear it;
I spread my wings to fly,
But I’m too easily crushed
By the hard nature of this world.

And Dylan:
Said once after a poker game,
I love you, Mom–
I remember saying I’d never love a white woman.

And the angry girl wrote this:
I hate school,
And if the walls could talk,
I bet they’d say
“I hate you, too.”

I wrote her a note, said that wasn’t true.

Felix was delivering pizza last I heard. Dylan–I think he played sports.

I wonder where she and her walls are now.
These halls are not my home.

Pretty is as Pretty Does

1980-something, he wrote her a poem, just a few pretty words: 

I want to touch you like the surf touches the sand, over and over again~

I want to kiss you like the sun kisses the earth, forever~

I want to hold you like the night holds the moon, up high and shining brightly, for everyone to see…

To see. To see?
The surf can be relentless, the sun scorching,
And the moon, a cold isolation.
Up high and shining brightly for everyone to see
What you did to me.

They must have seen it coming.


It was 1996 or 1997. She was in my English class. The assignment was to write a poem, any kind. She wrote this:


You gotta be scared both ways to know what I mean,

To be where I’ve been~

Scared beating on the door from the outside

And scared when they let you in.

I still have the original in a battered binding of the tattered bits and pieces of my students’ souls.

Lines like this written by the son of a drug addict and a man in prison for murder: “I scream to the top of my lungs but there’s no one to hear it/I spread my wings to fly, but I’m too easily crushed by the hard nature of this world.”

And this: “I am from a place where we don’t have family sayings” in a poem about heritage.

And this: “He walked past me like I was just another rug on the living room floor” from a poem about divorce.

Scared, she said.

I don’t blame her.