Ballad of a Special Education Teacher

Assignment: In my creative writing class I assigned an epic poem; a poem with a beginning, middle, and end, and tells a story.  Long.  Epic.  They refused to budge, even pick up a pencil, so I decided to show those little bastards how it was done.  I think I bled a little onto the page.

There once was a teacher,

So young and so spry,

All full of vigor

With a gleam in his eye

To conquer the world

To change some young lives,

But reality hurled

A stick in the gear, though he tried

To not be brought down,

To just let things slide,

To keep moving forward,

Let sleeping dogs lie.

He began with kids,

So tiny and naughty,

But boy how he loved them

No matter how haughty

Or mean they became.

True ankle biters,

Full of snakes and snails,

Rowdy and fighters.

He was making a difference,

He saw them change,

Though covered in bruises

And bite marks in strange

Places, but boy was it fun

To run and to play

And to act like a kid,

Between all the learning

Which, amazingly, they did!

They went on outings,

Fun little trips

To museums and parks,

And sled down the tips

Of snowy white peaks,

Hot chocolate and Saint Clause,

Life finally had a purpose,

Life finally had a cause.

Three years in

They kicked those kids out

To focus on teens,

And he had his doubts

To switch to the older,

So angry, so sick,

Would it be hard to teach

Old dogs some new tricks?

There was something about them

So stuck in their ways.

The young ones were moldable,

But teens seemed ok

To be stuck in their rut,

To not care a bit,

Not one little iota,

Not one little shit.

But he was here for a reason,

He had his grand scheme.

All kids could be learners,

He pushed on with his dream

To shape and to mold,

To give them a path

Away from pain and prison,

And fears of a bath

Where if soap is dropped

To the wet tile floor,

Best not pick it up

Or you’ll be in store

For a nasty surprise,

For a bit of distress…

But back to our story,

Excuse my digress.

He said his goodbyes

At the end of the year

In a gym full of parents

And boy were there tears.

He told them he loved them,

And broke them apart.

This chapter was over,

And it broke his black heart.

Life has a way

Of quickly shifting gears.

One day is good,

The next brings you tears.

Or more than a day,

A few months or years.

All can’t be roses,

There will be a hitch,

But when they keep on coming,

Bud luck is a bitch.

The kids, they were awful,

Violent and broken.

He quit the gym

And restarted smoking

To deal with the stress.

He hid from his wife,

But ne’er did she miss

The smell on his clothes

After ten minute trips

For garbage. Yeah, she knows.

Smoking and secrets

They cute like a knife

To the woman who loved him

Who promised her life

To him, and he to her,

For ever more,

But as the Raven doth say,

A foreboding, “Nevermore.”

The students were horrid,

They’re what you’d expect

But a little more.

And workbooks and texts

Were the least of his worries.

Days were a battle,

Eight angry kids

Shoved in like cattle

To a room way to small,

And he with no aid,

Eight hours of hell,

He was not paid

Enough for this shit,

He thought day after day.

But yet he pressed on

From August to May

Cause that’s what he did,

That’s who he was.

Take it on the chin

(Or sometimes the jaws)

Stand up with a grin,

Laugh it all off,

A joke or two.

Cause when life gets bumpy,

That’s just what you do.

But humor and jokes

Only cover so much.

It becomes a defense,

A façade, a crutch

To help you go on,

To help you adapt,

And when that fails

Drink fills the gap

To numb his frustrations,

To not let him think

Of work and his worries

He chose a strong drink

Over wife and family,

Those who he loved,

Those who he worked for

His cause, it was shoved

To the side, his mood became dour.

He brought that shit home,

And it made every hour

A slow, painful death

Of a once happy marriage.

His anger and sadness

Caused him to carry

Resentment and spite.

He’d sit and ignore

His son and his wife,

And the marriage?

“Nevermore.”

So let us come back

To the root of the story;

A job that was hell,

But what’s more he

Didn’t know what to do,

As far as his life.

It had gone bad to worse

And he lost his wife

On top of these kids

Who made the word “mean”

A quaint, happy fantasy.

Wretched, obscene

They were to him and even each other.

Caustic moods and languages to match,

“Do you kiss your mother

With that mouth?” was a catch-

Phrase to keep his bad mood at bay.

That humor, that grin,

No longer a way

To keep his demons safely at bay.

He loved to teach,

To impart small bits of knowledge.

Success was defined

By small steps, not college,

He was not blind,

Unrealistic or naïve;

The best most would hope for

Was to receive

A simple diploma, but that was enough.

A win is a win

In a lifet that’s so tough

To those few students

Who walked out the door

With paper in hand

And a life in store

Of struggles, hardships, and more

(I mean, well heck

Even the teacher lived check to check).

He imparted his wisdom

A few simple words,

“Stay out of prison,

Just be good

To each other

And to those that you meet.

Don’t drop the soap.

Stay off the streets.

And maybe, just maybe

Pick up a book.

You might actually like it.”

Their hands he shook

And sent them on their way

With a hope and a prayer.

A win is a win,

He won one more there.

Those rare moments

Where maybe he felt

He made a small difference

Were moments he held

Close to his heart,

He clung to, he grasped

With inhuman strength

Cause they didn’t last.

One of the good ones

Walked out the door

Left him outnumbered

With more and more

Of the ones that were left,

Naughty and poor

Mannered, and what was more,

They cared not a bit

To learn or to pluck

His mind for some learnin’.

No, not one little fuck

Was given each day,

But still he pushed forward,

To show them a way

That was decent,

A life that was ok.

He tried and he tried,

Though they ignored,

Threatened or cursed at.

At one point he swore

That “asshole” was his god-given name

He heard it so much.

Then finally he came

To the conclusion,

The very bottom line,

You can buy a beggar food

But you can’t make him dine,

Still he stood

In front of his class

Teaching, at times, to no one.

And the days they did pass,

Some slow,

Some fast,

Till one day he asked,

“What have I become?

The kids, they don’t listen.

I’ve quite lost the fun

And joy that I had.

Once upon a time

When I was young

And spry and so full of hope,

Set to conquer the word!

But then did I choke

On the choices I made,

My career, my vices.

I’m in middle age,

What’s more my wife is

Out the door,

Without a glance back.

It’s what I deserve

In life, my lack

Of thinking things out,

Just common sense,

Has brought me here.

Tired and tense,

Broken and sad,

And lonely, to boot.

I can’t be mad,

My reasons are moot,

What’s done is done,

I cannot go back

But look ever on,

And take one little step

At a time.

Though my spine

And feet they do ache,

Stress, the reason

Age, the cause.

I think I’m no more

The man I once was.”

“Why didn’t he quit?”

A question you may ask.

“A man never stops

The mission, the task.

He doesn’t give up,

He doesn’t give in.”

This was his answer,

Committing the sin

Of pride, no matter

What it may cost;

His wife and his son,

His health, and more.

There is always a bottom

Beneath the floor,

Or a bottom to that

Digging ever more.

But he would implore

To not misunderstand,

Those kids are tough.

They’re there for a reason.

Confused, lost, and rough

Around the edges, and sure

There is no sure cure

For what they carry.

Their burdens, their weight.

They know what they learn,

And they learned how to hate.

It was not the kids

That made his life crumble,

But the choices he made

Have broken and humbled

That little, lost man,

Who still holds a grin

And takes his small victories.

A win is a win.

Angry

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