Shopping for preschools.
Do we live in Manhattan?
Wait listed again!?!?!!!!!
Shopping for preschools.
Do we live in Manhattan?
Wait listed again!?!?!!!!!
dog puke on my bed
Han Min in trouble at school —
it’s not even noon
new front door security
at Han Min’s preschool
Yes, yes. I know. Stepped up security is a good thing in light of the Sandy Hook school shooting. But, that event took place before winter break and Han Min’s school didn’t have much time to respond before classes let out for the holidays. Well, apparently, the school took advantage of all this time off to come up with a new security detail. Yet I didn’t know that.
So this morning, here I was, trying hard to get Han Min back into the preschool routine. It felt like a monumental task. After so many days off sleeping in, hanging out in his pajamas until after lunch or going to a cousin’s house to play all day, Han Min was in no mood to be rushed out the door to preschool by 9 am.
“I play my house!” he kept telling me as I tried to stuff him into his clothes and sit him down to brush his teeth.
Finally, I got the dogs in the kennel, the kid in the car and ourselves to the school. We were already late and then I discovered the whole new front door routine. The door I was used to using was locked, so I had to run across the parking lot with the little guy to the one door that was open, which was, of course, on the opposite side of the building from where I needed to be. And while I’m doing this, I’m eyeballing the parking lot thinking, I could have parked so much closer had I known which door I had to use!
Argh! We were already late and the new routine felt like it made us so much later!
the dogs and I have
the neighborhood to ourselves —
big yellow buses
Her teacher tells me,
“She shares her voice with music.”
The shy princess sings.
a rare feeling of
peace as I walk through the door –
puppy’s at day school
nursery school drop-off –
she begins to see the world
beyond her mother
a brown cardinal
hops along the playground fence –
I drive myself home
laughter, cries, tears, smiles
during orientation –
Penny’s off to school
“You need to go back
to wife obedience school.”
He baits me. I bite.
Having worked as a classroom teacher myself, it’s no mystery I was drawn to Teacher Haiku, a book of seventeen syllable poems about the experience of being a teacher.
To learn more about the book, I contacted author Randy Howe with a series of questions about the intersection of teaching and haiku. Here’s what he had to say.
What do teaching and haiku have in common?
I think that the teacher and the haiku poet have a lot in common, actually. There are many reasons why each might not accomplish their goal. If the teacher (or poet) does not have a lot of faith in the audience, she or he might overstate what is better left understated.
The best lessons and poems leave the lion’s share of the work for the students/readers.
For example, a teacher, or a poet, introduces an idea and then asks the audience to contribute to that idea, either by connecting to a personal experience or by exploring it further.
The teacher, of course, checks for understanding in his or her students while the poetry reader is left to his or her own devices. The poet can reread his or her haiku, but will never really know what kind of an impact each poem makes on readers. Teachers have more of an idea, between testing scores and conversations with former students. I like the latter so much more than the former!
The topic of “haiku” seems to be something most students have come across at some point in their school career. Why do you think the topic of “haiku” is popular among teachers as part of a lesson plan?
I am a special education teacher and one part of my job is modifying assignments. The most common modification is chunking long-term projects and assignments into smaller parts. This makes the material much easier to digest and goes a long way to alleviating student stress.
Much the same, haiku are brief and more palpable than, let’s say, the epic Greek poems. They offer a glimpse of an emotion, situation, or scene. Year in and year out, I see teachers successfully introduce students to poetry with acrostic poems and haiku.
I teach high school now, but taught at the elementary level for five years and nothing made the kids happier than to write a haiku and then illustrate it. Plus, they like learning a little bit about Japan. For my high schoolers, nothing beats manga. Graphic novels have become an essential tool in teaching literacy to students who are struggling and I guess there’s just something intriguing about the Far East!
A lot of the haiku in this book rely on a certain insider’s knowledge, so to speak, of what goes on inside a classroom. They were obviously written from a teacher’s perspective. Should more teachers engage in writing haiku?
I think that teachers should write about teaching, whether it’s in haiku or journal entries. There has to be some release from the day-to-day stress, and teachers should definitely reflect on their art.
When revising, I had to take a harder look at how I felt about what I was saying. Whereas the first draft of many of my haiku were harsher than I intended, later drafts better captured my feelings about things like new computers arriving without keyboards, parents who seemingly ignore the fact that their child is not my only student, and kids more interested in daydreaming than listening to me.
At the end of a hard day, these annoyances can seem like mountains. On a Saturday morning, while drinking coffee in my pajamas, they seem more like molehills which is, of course, exactly what they are. It’s good for teachers to write about what they are experiencing and then go back and re-examine their observations and feelings.
Then they can more accurately categorize what is happening to them in the classroom and the decisions they subsequently make. For those whose chosen format is haiku, the benefit is being forced to cut to the chafe. This is probably true for all professions, pushing aside the inessential to get to what really matters.
The haiku in this book pick up on so many tiny school-year details. Did you write these haiku over the course of the school year or did you write them in the “off season”?
I am able to do a lot of my professional writing over the summer vacation, but “Teacher Haiku” was written during the winter of 2008. I started messing around with the essential topics in early December and by the time the holiday vacation rolled around, I was ready to write.
Deciding on subject matter was a lot easier than composing the haiku! I had never written haiku before, but like most people I thought, “How hard could this be?” Well, it’s hard. I still reread many of them and see how they could be better. I also know that in all too many instances, I wrote sentences rather than joining fragments and painting pictures.
But I do feel I was successful in capturing the life of a teacher over the course of a school year. After sixteen years of teaching, I know what March feels like, even in December. It feels long!
But there is a light at the end of the tunnel and not just the light of summer vacation. You see how your kids have grown since the beginning of the year. The hardest thing for me was sharing both discouragement and hope in just seventeen syllables.
Do you ever write haiku that aren’t about school?
I hadn’t written a haiku before “Teacher Haiku” and I haven’t written one since! I really love this book, though, and I loved writing it. Really, from that first step, when I was jotting down the essential topics, to the process of revising, it was a great experience for me. If I’m not learning, I’m not living. So, this new experience fit the bill.
There’s a guy who writes haiku about his beloved NY Mets, so maybe there is a market for sports haiku. I’ve also thought a nice hostess gift would be a collection of haiku about parties. I think that teaching is probably the most serious topic I would ever tap for poetry.
The most fun I had with this book was when I was writing in a humorous style. I just feel more comfortable in that zone. I’ve never been one to sit around the staff lounge, bitching and moaning about how awful everything is. I like my glass half full.
What are you working on now? Is there a book of “summer vacation haiku” in the works?
Ahhhhh, summer vacation. I think that a book about parenting and having fun with your kids might be in order. I can’t wait to hang out with my son and daughter again—all day, every day!
Recently, I finished revising “One Size Does Not Fit All,” a book I edited for Kaplan. It’s a collection of teacher stories, all with a focus on diversity in the classroom. It will be out in June and I can’t wait to see the response. It’s timely subject matter and the writing is really topnotch. Contributors include teachers from coast-to-coast, as well as Canada. There’s even a 9/11 piece from an American woman who was teaching in London at the time.
I am also looking forward to “1001 Smartest Things Teachers Ever Said,” which was just published by Globe Pequot Press. This is more of a gift book, so it should be on a lot of bookstore tables this spring.