From the teacher-side, we seek to provide enough direction to get our students started while trying to avoid providing a script for them to plod through. It is a tiresome balancing act; one that occasionally yields essays that make the whole quarter, or even year, worthwhile, but more-often-than-not lands students in office hours asking our collective least favorite question: what do you want me to do?
The Day I Became Charles Whitman
My genie uncorked himself the moment my favorite student asked my least favorite question:
What do you want us to do?
It was then I began my ascent to the highest point on campus, rising on an ethos no Scantron
might pattern, maddened not by her wish
to nail things down but her disinclination to open things up, her agility
at recognizing without knowing, and not knowing otherwise.
It's never the fault of the innocent bystander. My predecessors, and I am one,
have been thorough in our assessment, shrouding inquiry as distraction,
emphasis on the wrong reflection,
replication now its own reward.
We never named doubt a diversity.
Consequently, without doubt,
learning is no longer the journey,
rote becomes the destination, home thankfully, tucked in bed, prayers said,
Steadfast, I issue my demands
to her and the dudes behind her
whose caps but not convictions
have been reversed. I insist they wield
a thesis statement that doesn't club the reader
like a baby seal, to bludgeon instead whoever
first sold them the notion that all thought
is precisely five paragraphs long that
Baskin Robbins sells only vanilla. I want them
to endanger every member of my species
who ferreted out Dickinson's metaphors as if
thumbing through a book of Where's Waldo,
who ended every rhetorical question
with an invisible, ringing Stupid.
I want my best student to rename every color
Land's End has, beginning with sea foam.
I want her to leave Tacoma, conceive
the day she will leave Tacoma and arrive
at her own land's end, the newest continent,
sighting at sextant's end the glint of all
her possibilities. I want her to regard me not
as the Simon who says, but as a tool,
envision a Black & Decker logo
embossed across my measured brow.
I want her to find words more melodious
than due date and assignment.
These are my demands, I tell the fearful,
she and the others who scramble for cover
behind book bags, notebooks open,
pens poised, waiting to commit to the page
their trust in me. Meet them, I announce,
from my vaulted position, and my cynical hopes,
or I'll take no more hostages.
~Michael Darcher. Published in Crosscurrents 2004 Whatcom Community and Technical Colleges Humanities Association.
If this poem did not make a lot of sense to you, go find out who Charles Whitman was, and then read it again.
:: this post is included in the Friday Poetry round-up over at a wrung sponge.