A TEACHER, EH? by Mark Grist

The starter is removed
Our main course emerges
And when I’m asked what I do for a living
Our host’s reaction verges
On the incredulous
Half digested food that’s been fed to us
From his wet lips
He leans in,
He quips
‘A teacher, eh?
Wouldn’t catch me wasting my time
With today’s youth,
Just a bunch of grubby little shits!’
The wolves laugh around him
Applaud the wit that he has fired
His wife smoothes my arm like tablecloth
Beams ‘no wonder he looks tired!’
The room erupts again
And I chuckle
Because she is right
I am tired

I’m tired from days spent
Saying ‘tuck in that shirt’
From getting kids into lines,
Making girls unroll their skirts
And I’m tired from setting tests
To the grumbles; the complaining
The exams get me stressed
Giving detentions can be draining
And who’d have guessed it’d be knackering
Making lessons entertaining?
The kids don’t notice cos someone’s farted
Or had a nosebleed
Or its raining

And I’m tired from working with Artists,
with athletes, with dancers
I’m tired from asking questions
Till I realise maybe I didn’t know all the answers
And then I’m tired from watching the sparks that fly
Behind young eyes
The heroes made in my classroom
The self worth they realise

And then those other kids
Where you have to tie
On a line
Dive deep
Into their minds
Rescue the battered scraps of confidence
Another adult rusted up inside
scrabbling at those locks
Dredging back those pearls
Then saying
‘Well done,
I’ll see you next week.’
Letting them back out into the world

I’m tired
Because I work hard
With young people
Who care about community,
They aren’t happy accepting
Our banal shirt sleeved mediocrity
While the efforts of the majority go to the back of the local paper
The kid with the blade who hates the world cos nobody taught him better
Gets plastered on page one
So that when we’re all tired, when all our hard work is done
I get to stand on duty, watch those grown ups fearful looks
Directed at those young minds travelling home
Laughing with their books

But look,
Mostly, right now I am tired
Because in my lesson yesterday
We discussed poverty in Uganda
Throughout it my students were seething, irate, raw with anger
They couldn’t understand the
Fact that children die of starvation in our world by the score
And when one girl asked me
‘Sir, how can this happen? How can the adults let the poor stay poor?’
It got me thinking all night about what I once stood for

So, you all may be successful
And this meal may well be Michelin
But I’d swap the swine around me now
For a dozen kids on Ritalin
Cos those ‘grubby little shits’
Won't learn your layers of indifference
And I am tired,
Yeah I’m exhausted!
But teaching’s what I do
I feed others before I feed myself
So that fingers crossed
I’ll never ever become
As overfed
As you.

1 comment:

  1. Michael Docker8 April 2010 at 20:32

    great stuff - very effective use of rhyme and the whole thing showed real passion