...but What You Do doesn’t fit into these boxes
the head gardener said from across her desk
which is larger than mine which is larger
than my students’. It does give her some respect --
she’s almost at the top of the school-desk
chain, after all.
I mean, I know I’m just grounds maintenance
and even need boxes
But mostly, I’m the one who lets the Portulaca grow.
What I Do doesn’t fit into those boxes
It began so hopefully.
I took a seat, noticed the books that lined the shelves
behind her by authors I didn’t necessarily agree with.
Still don’t, filled as they are with all those foolish
lists and diagrams and charts.
She opened my file, and with it the End-of-Year Conversation --
“You’re the best teacher I’ve got, you know
that don’t you?”
I mumbled some uni-syllables in some un-rememberable
order: “Wow. No. Um. Yes. Well. Oh. Um. Thanks.”
and considered (not too guiltily, I must confess),
the Pay-for-Performance payout I would get.
… but What You Do doesn’t fit into these boxes
You see, you and me, we can’t have a real relationship
if your job is to judge me, compare me to my friends,
and by those boxes that you checked
during a half-dozen ten-minute “Spot Observations” --
determine my salary.
Even you don’t like doing it, I get that, please don’t
tell me. Even within an argument essay,
that's a pretty lame attempt at pathos.
It’s all irrelevant anyway --
there will never be enough money
for us all to be Exemplary.
Race to the Top means someone’s at the bottom --
competition in our world sows even more doubt
and insecurity than we already know.
We are all the lettuce of the parable --
who need more water and less sun and certainly
less blame for not growing well.
And what seeds are we really sowing?
Do we truly believe that the re-seeded Portulaca will bloom
in the cracks of our neighborhood sidewalks?
Or should we weed them out?
Rev up the Weed Eater and lop off their little blooming heads
to make things more tidy?
Don’t judge me for how many blossoms
there are, or how many seeds take root --
because some will never find their way under the concrete to the light
and others have been blown so far away
and planted themselves in places where
the woman holding the garden hose speaks another language.
Schools are not Businesses
Students are not Consumers
Students are not Consumers
Knowledge is not a Product
You wanna know what our schools really need?
We need Professional Development we seek out ourselves
and you pay for it, and we convince all our colleagues
to come along because it will make us all Exemplary,
Racing to the Top as if we were holding hands
in a long line of Red Rover Red Rover
and we’re going to hold so tight that noone we call over
will ever be able to break through.
And we really don’t care if we get more money
for how tight we hold hands or
when our name gets called or
if we break through and get to bring someone over
to our side. We’re the ones who would rather be
happy than rich and you know it --
and you’ve taken advantage of it for far too long
We need more men. More people of color.
We will get neither if the seeds
of funding and fairness
don’t find a place to grow
We need accountability -- of course we do.
We would be the first to admit this.
We strive every single goddamn day to be
accountable to our students -- and ourselves.
But it’s hard, because there’s no box for
Makes Moments of Joy or
Uses Love to Impart Knowledge, or
And even if there were, there would still
be a gardener, looking out the kitchen window
comparing us to our fellow flowers
in the window box
We need our own mentor texts
(red ones and yellow ones and even some purple ones)
to cross-pollinate with the convictions of youthand create a whole new, fearless hue.