SLAM: Do It For Your First Grade Teacher

My school begins our testing window for second and third year high school students tomorrow. Every morning from 9-12 they will be sequestered into the same classroom for their math and reading tests. Third year students also have an entire day on Thursday from 9-2:30 with one break and a 45 minute lunch.

Not much of my poetry so far this month has been directed at the students, or written for them to hear. This one is for them. My ninjas. The last thing I will do tomorrow before the test begins is stand in front of the test takers, bow and grunt, like we do. Then everyone gets a fist bump. And as cheersing without eye contact is bad luck, bumping my fist demands focus. The last moment of human contact they will have until the test is over (unless you count the droning proctor script before each test begins, but I do not..that interaction is not human).

Time to motivate these rascals!

Get it, yo! We are listening!

Get it, yo! We are listening!

Do It For Your First Grade Teacher

remember back to the days

of naptime and snacks

when arithmetic flashcards were adorned with cartoon owls

and all the numbers had limbs and smiley faces


remember back to the days

when recess started every hour on the hour

and the swing set felt like a rocket ship

when there was lava

under the monkey bars and chicken peck kisses

by the basketball courts


remember hugging the woman

with tree trunk legs and horn-rimmed glasses

with her spring time sundresses

gradebook in hand greeting every student

at the door thanking them for coming


remember those days

when every child was a student of the week

she chose you because she waited everyday

until you did something spectacular:

cleaning the classroom trash, sharing your bag of cookies,

handing in the neatest work, making friends with the smelly kid


she was the first person outside of your family

to recognize your brilliance

she was the first one to be awed by your amazing


and maybe it wasn’t her

but at some point you believed in a teacher

because they believed in you

you went to school for an entire year energized and happy

because you were made to feel invincible and valuable and epic.


you are still epic

that teacher was not writing a fiction of you


you have always been valuable

even as the school system shortchanges you


and despite these tests, this stress,

the fear of the unknown on your horizon

you will always be invincible

nothing could ever convince me otherwise


but I don’t want you to think of me when you are stuck

three years into high school

three months before summer vacation

three days into these standardized tests


do it for your first grade teacher


prove everything she believed in you came true


prove to her

no matter how much education has sucked away your soul

or cornered your creativity

she made you invincible


not for me, not for your school, not for the data

do it for the first teacher who believed in you

show them you believe too

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