Educating in rows

Looking at the library calendar in April and May shows far too many days that students have no access because the library is closed for testing. Students spend day after day packaged in their rows with blinders around their work.

Concern about the many tests kids take this time of year got me thinking, and… because it’s poetry month, just for fun…I thought I’d ponder this a little bit… in a poem.

Today In School

Startling us out of our morning daze, the five-minute bell
Creates the hall crowd, jostling for lockers, checking for homework,
Hustling for smiles between friends.
Minutes tick. The lockers slam shut and
in five
The last hall door is closed leaving only the echo of the tip tip tip of the
heels of the teacher on prep
heading to the office to make copy after copy
period ends.

halls & lockersA student walks down the hall hugging the wall carrying
A pile of books
backpack spilling over
with Monster Water
and packages of chips and
something akin to food.
Her multi-colored hair
flows down her back in braids that bounce with each gliding step.
She opens the door to her class
and disappears.

“Good morning Miss Green, glad you could join us….”

Outside, the blast from the leaf blower bounces from the walls of the schoolyard.
Why the heck does this happen when I’m giving a test?
There they sit – all 35 heads bent, pencils poised in thought or
writing deliriously on my topic of choice.
I watch them scurry and I know who will find the answers deep inside and I know who will send
me love notes
saying screw you, this crap has nothing to do with my life
so why should I even care?
I watch them in the rows and pencils and the heads bent
and the same kids moving ahead and the same kids tossing about

like feathers floating with the wind.
Balancing precipitously while we line them in those rows
and give them the same test, the same assignment the same
just like the grapevines and apple orchards and planting our tomatoes.
They are fertilized on the same day,
watered at the same time,
planted in rows.
old school in rows

It’s easy
and oh so logical to harvest and package
when they’re all aligned.
That book they all read
that essay they all write
that test they all take on the
same day
same time
so we can spot the troublemakers and
identify the brilliant
and plant them in rows
and grade them like eggs,
candlewicking their
answers each night.

Ok. so. What?
But hey. Take a breath.
Take a look.

In the forest the canopy of leaves intersects the light
and the silver drops from the rain drip where they’re needed most.
Birds, alight with color, feed their babes with the fruits of the world
and those babies grow and prosper
and fly on their own;
and learn to live by watching
then doing
then doing
again, and again
And they grow strong;
and it all. just. works.
In the meadow, grass and tree
and brush grow between and next to, within, and through.
The small trails of orange leaves bends to the
blue, purple, yellow, and red petals laced
the green, green of the grass
celebrating the patchwork joy that is its diversity.

.flowers in field

Nature doesn’t plant in rows.



Lee, Russell. High School Students. San Augustine, Texas. Apr. 1939. Library
Of Congress Prints & Photographs Div. Farm Security Administration –
Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Lib of Congress),
Washington, DC. Fsa 8b21699 Photos, Prints,
Drawings. Web. 3 Mar. 2016. .

Author: Connie Williams

NBCTeacher Librarian and author of “Understanding Government Information: a Teaching Strategy Toolkit for grades 7-12”. Member of the CA State Library Services Board, and History Room Librarian at the Petaluma Regional Library [Sonoma County Library]. She welcomes all conversation.. give a holler!

Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.