Thursday, January 14, 2010

Writer's Challenge #3 - Teacher, Teacher


Lori at Family Trees May Contain Nuts is hosting another Writer's Challenge! Our topic this month is "Teachers Who Made a Difference in Your Life - Good or Bad". As much as I adore the majority of teachers, I have known some who seemed to delight in stamping out any individuality or creativity that may have flickered in a child's heart. Thankfully, I think that they are few and far between. And I can honestly say that while not all of my teachers were fabulous, I can't think of any who purposefully tried to stamp out that spark.

(image from Google Images)

Mrs. Barcus was my sixth grade teacher. One of our assignments was to find a poem that we really enjoyed and to write about it. At the time, I was totally enamored of Elton John. So I chose the lyrics to "Madman Across the Water" from the album of the same name. I remember how moved I was the first time I heard the song, and I was so excited to write about it. I swear that essay was my Magnum Opus, and I was so proud when I handed it in. I was sure that there were no other 6th graders who could possibly be sophisticated enough to listen to Elton John, much less find the deeper meaning in Bernie Taupin's lyrics!
Imagine my chagrin when the paper was returned to me with a B! Mrs. Barcus said that the paper was well thought out and well written, but she was very disappointed that of all the great poetry in the world I had chosen to write about a "pop song". At the time, I was highly offended and thought that she was just too old fashioned to understand modern music lyrics and the effect that they could have on a person. However, as I grew older, I also grew to appreciate her criticism. At that point I had never really read much poetry. I loved to read, and constantly had my nose buried in a book, but poetry just didn't interest me. I began to check out books of poetry from the library, and while it has never become my favorite subject matter, I did grow to appreciate it. And I discovered some poets that I enjoy to this day, including Robert Frost, Maya Angelou and Edger Allen Poe. Of course I had read Poe, but who knew he was also a poet!
With apologies to Mrs. Barcus, I still find that music and music lyrics contain the poetry that speaks to me most clearly. But I will always be grateful that she pushed that somewhat arrogant 12 year old girl out of her comfort zone and into a world that she had not yet discovered.

16 comments:

Lori E said...

I wonder what mark you would have received if you wrote about Elton's song "Saturday night's alright for fightin'" lol.
You must have done a good job to get a B.
I get the feeling this teacher knew what you were capable of and was waiting to see what wonderful poem you were going to choose and what you would feel from it.
I agree it is music that speaks to us on such a deep level.
Thanks for joining in.

xinex said...

Just from the way you write, I know you should have gotten an A. But maybe it could have been her strict influence that made you expand your reading horizon too....Christine

Deb said...

nice story...

The Muse said...

Your teacher was indeed encouraging you...moving you to EXPAND...

To waltz into the world of rhythmic prose with as much passion as you danced to the pop tunes of your time!

I think your post here certainly proves she was a good teacher!

Lori said...

Your teacher sounds a lot like my English teacher in high school.. She pushed me soooo hard.. I'm thankful she did...

You have to join my party. you take wondeful photos.. Take some of your yard. I would love to see..

hummer said...

Love the way you were able to reflect back on the experience and apply it to your growth. I love that she gave you a reason for the grade.
It has been a while since I have been by your blog. Love your look now.
Thank you for stopping by and commenting on my story.
Frances

Joanne said...

Dropping by to read your post and I LOVED it. I remember being a bit older and sitting through an English class wishing we could study the poetry of our music -- it felt easy to do. Your teacher was correct but I also feel the same way I love the poetry of our songwriters - its just a different twist to poetry in many cases.

http://joanne55.blogspot.com/2010/01/my-inspirational-teacher-one-who-made.html

Lee said...

I never liked poetry either, other than music... then one day I woke up with a poem in my heart, these thoughts forced me to put it down on paper so I could get about my normal day. I had to empty them out onto paper...for several months I wrote poems as they came to me ...I am sure they aren't masterpieces but nevertheless, I recorded them. I published them on my website.
Lee

Lois said...

I have always thought of songwriters as poets who put their words to music. Elton John has always been a favorite of mine too. It is nice that you learned something from your disappointment in your grade though and later learned to enjoy more traditional poetry. My son had a 6th grade teacher who undermined him at every turn. I think he learned to be more resilient in spite of her!

Tammy said...

I too, find my poetry in music. I also love the poets you mentiond as well as many others. I don't seek out poetry however when a good poem is pointed out, I give it a read. It can never hurt to diversify our teachings. Great story, great song!! Tammy

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

I enjoyed reading your essay Kathy. I was very much like you and always loved musical lyrics, especially Paul Simon's. He actually made me read many novels in high school because his song "Desultory Philippic" mentioned so many authors that I knew nothing about. Joyce and Tolstoy were among them.

I also HATED history in high school until a tracher challenged me and now I LOVE history! lol

laurie @ bargain hunting said...

I think you were so innovative at the age of 12 to write about the words to popular music instead of a poem. Music is poetry (in most cases). I'm glad you turned the "B" into something good though. Well written and a good lesson for life. I bet she would give you an A+ on this. laurie

Kathysue said...

Kat, Even then you took something that could have made you feel like a victim of your teacher and you became challenged. You are forever the student of life, always open to learning something new. I truly admire that quality in you. Hugs Kathysue

Michelle said...

Poetry brings back memories of a class I had in high school. I was so looking forward to 20th Century Poetry but the teacher and class were both such a joke! I remember one poem a fellow classmate wrote and he got an "A".

He wrote this for his girlfriend:

"I play,
With Kaye"

Yes, the class was that bad. I would have rather had a teacher like your Mrs. Barcus!

Michelle@spendabuck

Confessions of a Plate Addict said...

I love it that you were able to see her point and grow through it, Kat! Music is indeed poetry and there are even some French songs which ARE poems put to music. When it comes to novels, though, it makes me sad that teenagers are now reading adolescent novels instead of "A Tale of Two Cities" like we did in the 10th grade. :-( I am sooo far behind that I can't catch up on my blogging! I loved the reflection post and tried to figure out what it was....is it the orange in the photo? I don't know why you are out of your comfort zone. That photo was great! Have a wonderful weekend...hugs...Debbie

Blondie's Journal said...

I So agree with The Muse...but I also agree with your instructor giving you some "give" to improve by pushing you to seek out other poetry, How we loved to listen to our music and of course there were books we never thought to open. Apparently, that is what she hoped for with her assignment and I am glad you saw that at such a young age.

Wonderful essay!! :-)

xoxo
Jane