Disciples of Abbey

they should have been more specific
when they said teachers need to be teaching
readers with more rigorous texts. so even though Edward Abbey
is not a writer
from their preferred canon,

I teach the books about a world of blowing up
different Keystone XLs
beer-blurried and Vietnam-shocked
in the red hot Southwest. my students like it.
the desert is already their heartbreak

landscape. we delve into the coal seam
metaphors; the Moloch roiling
beneath the surface, where uranium lives
an American dream is bulldozed
into the quiet places of the indian rez,

Moloch, the radioactive forever-lit cathedral.
do the testmakers mind if I reshape these
close readers into environmental acolytes? are they ready
for the next generation of wilderness folk,
hellbent Leopolds? sparking wildfires

of mind
from this public education imperative,
a teacher can make a mighty fine monkeywrencher
out of these standards.

Week One Word Cloud

Thank you to anyone and everyone who is reading, sharing, reflecting. It was a crazy week trying to all of this writing after school each day. I hope I can keep up the pace!

Here is a Word Cloud, thanks to worditout.com, that highlights where my poetry resides. I am glad the word test is not the most frequent word. Interesting words are showing up here. Time and tired. School and grandmother.

Only three more weeks of poems. Hope we have the energy for it!


Those Who Can

No Contractions

why go through the trouble
shoving together ideas at odds
–can and not–

the lightning tipped apostrophe
is contracting
chance into paralysis
because industry contracts
economy contracts
The world of can’t cracks and collapses

humans stretch
people explore
students can
can is an opus

there is nowhere to hide behind can
you may not cower in your doubts
you may not avoid the work to be done

convincing yourself
you can’t now
means you won’t tomorrow

when you can analyze literature
it means you will write it

say I can examine my life as a journey
and someday you will be someone’s hero

if you can’t
then don’t

but come back to my classroom
after you have calculated all the wasted time
troubling with the odds

and you are tired of missing your chances

A shout out to the famous Taylor Mali poem to frame today’s effort! If you have never seen this, please watch this and many more videos of this amazing poet’s work.

Eulogy for Education

(Inspired by Audre Lorde’s Eulogy for Alvin Frost)

I am tired of writing memorials for their dreams
tired of them disappearing

one time a young girl catalyzed her peers
to walk out in support of a teacher
who taught for students
and not administrivia

the teacher was let go at the end of the year
the student dropped out the next fall

and I saw you growing tired too

it was rarely roses with you anyhow.

I teach a remarkable new people—
these first generation high school graduates
with grandparents who had first languages beaten out of them
and so my students have less stories now.

and when separate was equal
the barbs of police batons contained
that colorless synonym for negro
beaten into a next generation.

too often
there is no way
to unravel your thorns
for my students.

I am done with you as the cold blank monolith

once an 11th grader came to my door
with a 2nd grade reading level
after many schools and many Ds (not Fs)

and we tested him

his data unveiled a case of neglect
and oversight too absurd for criminality
but too common for education

I heard them on the television speaking of a resurrection
but I do not believe it:

this pale Lazarus lifeless and dull
made more dull with the ash of the rising place.

they speak of second coming
omitting how they were the ones hollowing

you. they hoped I would mourn you
and pray for a moment like this

new gospel.
they are selling something I cannot believe.

I love showing students their data
because it helps them make sense of themselves.

but we let data speak alone
when we know damn well
too many schools forget

to teach students
to speak for themselves.

perhaps we should have let go sooner.
it would have been easier if we had torn down
those schools. we never should have closed them.
we all would have been forced then

to revision,

to hold stake.
imagine if we built
gardens in every vacant classroom window
and planetariums of our cavernous gyms.

I remember my greatest days
on a mountain trail with fourteen teenagers

or on the shore of a lake
ready to throw away stones we had painted

with our burdens and carried
for a week. you were with me visiting

ruins near the lava field
when we learned about seeing land

like an owl, returning to school
with a different sense of sight:

we are better humans with all-sides-eyes.
I will always hold the borderplaces

where people I have met stitch the sutures
of our coming together

and ripping apart.

you were a stunning companion.

Mr. Test has a Job Interview

the blazerandslacks ensemble
does not impress me. 
something about that starched collar screams constrictively tight
and those wingtips are awful

I'm afraid you have no style
and teachers have panache in their DNA.
you're all methodology,
too system for swag, 
so much polish and not enough person.

what's that?
        you have never stood in front of a classroom before?

this place does not suit you

Dear Failure

the afternoon you went to the track supporting
the student with Down Syndrome
speed walking his way to the Special Olympics
silver medal

every time you found a way
to complete an assignment at home
after prepping dinner for your kindergarten sister

when you said thank you
in the situation screaming for your selfishness

every time you asked that question everyone was too scared to pose

that day you asked how to express
your feelings on a page
even though you were sure
no one cared to know

the morning your letter from prison arrived
and you asked me to read it
with the at-risk students

remember when we cried with your mother and grandmother
about your father’s passing

the class you learned to navigate a dictionary

the day you snuck into my classroom
and left a poem on the table
about the bullied black hair girl
fighting for tomorrow

when you wrote a paragraph for the first time
and it didn’t matter ten years of education
hadn’t taught you yet

the one time you cleaned the trash in your neighborhood
and made a mural of our heartlessness

the moment you realized your anger is no match for your laughter

you passed the test

Short Answer Response Deviation (March 3 Revision)

For your short answer response portion of the test, be sure to contain your answer
within the box provided. You have twenty minutes to develop a correct response.

Check me as I copy Dr. Dre’s verse from ‘Today was a Good Day’
I’ll sketch cartoons of adults outside laughing and free
I’m fixin on a pie chart to chart π in a racecar

I will compose my essay Beautiful Mind style across the edges
of a double helix spiraling into a black hole

I am writing the biography of my grandmother, the woman of no
schooling, the gardener of no pesticides, the curandera of no antibiotic

Me I’m gonna decoupage the school in test booklets
I will redraft the Treaty of Bosque Redondo and sign my name X
Can’t stop me from punching braille if they feed me blind lines

I got enough time to graffiti this test this runaway train
this subway caboose shining silver with my graphite truth

I will dare poetry into existence breathing bonfires of this paper
sending the ash on a wind to those family trees still standing

Short Answer Response Brainstorm

I will compose my essay Beautiful Mind style across the edges
of a double helix spiraling into a black hole

I am writing the biography of my grandmother, the woman of no
schooling, the gardener of no pesticides, the curandera of no antibiotic

Check me as I copy Cube and Dre’s ‘Today was a Good Day’
How many pages of my fantasy novel do you think they’d understand
I’m fixin on a pie chart to chart π

I wonder how hard it’d be using pointillism to express
a response of the proctor’s resemblance with Barack

Surely, Ms. Dickinson would appreciate a modern take on the airiness,
the levity concerning this context of ‘There’s a Certain Slant of Light

Me I’m gonna decoupage the school in test booklets
I will redraft the Treaty of Bosque Redondo and sign my name X
Can’t stop me from punching braille when they feed us blind lines

Question One

Use the following definitions to inform your answers for the questions below

test 1    |test|   noun

  1. a procedure intended to establish the quality, performance, or reliability of something, esp. before it is taken into widespread use
  2. a short written or spoken examination of a person’s proficiency or knowledge
  3. an event or situation that reveals the strength or quality of someone or something by putting them under strain

Match the number of each definition to the correct reason for the proliferation of testing in American schools:

______ grit is classroom/boardroom buzzword du jour

______ the schoolcorporation politic holds education over the coals until all is rectified

______ oral exams are so 20th century

True or False:

______ In readying these tests for their day in the fluorescent sun, your teacher, and principal, and school district, and state…participated in a clear procedure intended to establish the quality or reliability of this experience before it was taken into widespread use for Short Cycle Assessments, Standards Based Assessments, End of Course Exams, Student Graduation Requirements, Teacher Evaluation, Curriculum Design, etc.


Today is a demonstration of:

  1. who holds the championship belt for daydreamers
  2. the efficacy of our genetic, racial, cultural, socioeconomic heritage
  3. how much our nothingness controls our everythingness
  4. the heartbreaking fallacies of Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go




Code of Ethics

Last year I wrote a handful of poems inspired by Standardized Testing content, environment, philosophy, politics, reality, competition, consequence, bias, flaws, opportunity. These poems were posted onto this blog on March 19, 2013. On the following morning, I was instructed to remove these poems from the blog or face consequences with my teaching license. I promised to repost their content the following month once testing was over, but thought better of it. I was contacted by the Santa Fe Reporter to discuss the censorship and breach of test security. I thought better of that as well.

But this year I will be writing a poem a day this March to voice concerns, foster dialogue and relate what is happening in public education. Today’s poem is inspired by the legal documents I received in light of last year’s poetry. Pictured below, I was required to read my responsibilities regarding STATEWIDE STANDARDIZED TESTING SECURITY ISSUES AND REGULARITIES ( and CODE OF ETHICAL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE EDUCATION PROFESSION, STANDARDS OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT (

Code of Ethical Repsonsibility

Code of Ethical Responsibility of the Education Profession

Owning up to my missteps, I was in breach of Provision C for Staff Responsibility reading: It shall be a prohibitive practice for anyone to: 1. photocopy or reproduce in any other fashion including paraphrasing, any portion of a standardized test including a student’s answer; 2. Teach from, possess or in any way disseminate a photocopy or other reproduced or paraphrased standardized test or portion of a standardized test.

As well, I also compromised my duties as a teacher in New Mexico concerning Provision C (19) reading: the educator shall not engage in any conduct or make any statement (a) that would breach the security of any standardized or non-standardized tests; (c) that would give students an unfair advantage in taking a standardized test; (d) that would give a particular school or a particular classroom an unfair advantage in taking a standardized or non-standardized test.

At the time of penning the censored poems, I had never read these provisions for the responsibilities of carrying my license or continuing to teach students in New Mexico. My intention was not to offer students a leg up on their peers. I did not strive to compromise the test security. I intended to process my day the best way I know how. To filter my experiences, frustrations and joys through poetry. In this case that was a dangerous deed.

Now that I know, I will not gain creative inspiration directly from testing content. Though, from my vantage point, the tests remain deeply inspiring while completely devoid of creativity.

But I will be writing everyday. Not of the test, but of the testing. Not of the score, but of the student.

(italicized parts lifted from existing legislative wording and structure)

I, Public Educator

Title Now: Primary and Secondary Education
Chapter Immediately: The Person, the Student, The Human in Public Education
Part Existential: How to Exist in Education
Issuing Agent: A Teacher of Security Breaches, A Teacher of Voice

Scope: For all those who pay taxes, who appreciate learning and citizenship; by this meaning non-litterers, voters, parents, employers, public officials, welfare recipients, landowners, bigots, lobbyists, holographs

Statutory Authority: The Law of Sight, Breath and Beating Heart
Duration: The length of employment of the poet
Effective date: August 2008 upon employment or March 2013 upon censorship

Objective: To attract like hearted individuals to the greatest profession man has yet created. The poet wishes to inspire man and woman, boy and girl, to learn, feel and give, for collaboration is a dying (or never birthed) ideal of education. The poet wishes for others to rise, resist, remake, inhabit, refute, satirize these words and hollow out the hollowness of the profession to finally make full the educator, the lobby, the great hall, the calling.

Definitions: “Education” means struggling against struggle, against injustice, against closemindedness, against economics-based metrics of progress. “Ethical Misconduct” refers to apathy, complacency, short-sightedness while engendering citizenship and the morality of youth. “Grounds for Termination” relates to willful or unconscious reinforcement of the institutional limitations on students of rural, urban, disadvantaged, impoverished, differently colored, independently spiritual backgrounds.

Code of Ethics: I, a professional educator of New Mexico, affirm my belief in the worth and dignity of humanity, the supreme importance of the pursuit of truth, scholarship and citizenship.

Standards of Professional Conduct:
1. Never accept district-, state-, or federal mandated curricula without sound reflection, critical discourse or self-expression within or without of the classroom. Maintain integrity when dissenting by basing our public criticism of education on valid assumptions as established by careful evaluations of facts.
2. Promote community involvement through cross cultural and intergenerational experiences. Instruct with the health, wellbeing and sustainability of community in mind.
3. Expose students to the gift of inquiry engendering self-exploration and alleging truth above personal safety.
4. Deny lazy consumption of American consumer culture through social justice pedagogies for economics, geology, land, identity, politics, language, art and genetics.
5. Forego the use of History textbooks which fail to make reference to the following individuals: Daniel Berrigan, Russell Means, Cesar Chavez, Geronimo, Wangari Maathi, Frederick Douglass, Kevin Powers, Tim DeChristopher, Woody Guthrie, Arundhati Roy, Howard Zinn, Liu Xiaobo, His Holiness the Dali Lama, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Malala Yousafzai.
6. Prepare students for mastery of standardized tests while fostering dialogue concerning test biases; lack of research-based reasoning for its proliferation; the uneven playing field established, strengthened and perpetuated by tying its purpose to federal monies and to evaluations of self, demographic, school, teacher.
7. Recognize the opportunity of all students’ life paths, lifestyle choices, and alternative realities by acknowledging their point of view and validating their voice.
8. Motivate students to expect kairotic moments in their lives, ensuring a person’s existence is not beholden to stereotype, family name, addiction history, bank account, automobiles, disabilities, street gangs, IQ, individualized education plans.
9. Show up every day despite the legislation, the politics, the morass, the profound impossibilities. Arrive sincere and leave carved open. Bare the soul to students so they may learn of being human.