Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Pillow Book: 10. I impressed my first students

10. I impressed my first students

xxxI impressed my first students by reciting from memory “Nature’s first green is gold.” I had been reading them S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, and amidst the jaunty and raucous talk suddenly pealed the poem’s deep bell tones.
xxxIn the 90s, when I started to teach, Singapore required its citizens to think. The best schools of the country turned independent. Educators talked about thinking out of the box, and so nothing essential changed, except the school fees. When Pioneer Junior College wished to discard school uniforms, it was stopped by the Ministry. The situation is aptly described in the senryu:

The Prime Minister.
All the officers shoot up—
a field of lallang.

xxxThe independent school where now I teach is less likely to talk about lallang than laurel. Seated on the upper end of Manhattan island, it guards its autonomy fiercely. So fierce that a supervisor’s criticism is resented as an attack. “Experienced teachers,” says my colleague, “know by and for themselves what is wrong with their teaching.” Yes, but what about the things we don’t know we don’t know? More, I ask myself, what about the things we know we don’t know, but don’t have the heart to change? Thinking about the heart this morning, I wrote this haiku:

On a mountain hut
the roof removed from the ground
is good for shelter.

xxxI can’t abide Frost’s folksy wisdom now. Nothing gold can stay, and that garden variety of wilderness. Not when I have miles to go, and the snow is deep.

[Self-criticism: The senryu is witty and fresh. The haiku, however, is a little too picturesque. The rest of the prose poem is not without charm in places but its overall effect is overly earnest.]


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